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The Surf Club

Ortley Beach, NJ

July 05, 2008


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With the recent release of the brand new JOURNEY record “Revelations” it seems everything old is new again in 2008. But if you are follower of the band than you know that isn’t exactly true. By now it’s been pretty well publicized that JOURNEY has found a brand new singer in Arnel Pineda via YouTube… and all the way from the Philippines no less! And just as it has seemed since vocalist Steve Perry left the group after 1996’s “Trial By Fire” record, there is still much debate over anyone trying to fill his shoes.

The band carried on first with Steve Augeri (ex-TALL STORIES) and then for a brief time with solo artist Jeff Scott Soto before ultimately claiming they wanted to return to their “legacy sound” and go with a singer more in the vein of the legendary Perry.

Now being a JOURNEY fan myself, I thought after all the drama that has surrounded the band since the departure of Perry, if they really did want to return to their legacy sound than therEvolutione was just one man they needed to turn to. No doubt Pineda is a strong singer (and I personally think they have done a great new album with him) but if they wanted that “legacy sound” all they really had to do was turn to none other than a guy by the name of Hugo.

And so that brings us to the very point of this whole story and review. See, Hugo fronts the New York-based JOURNEY tribute act EVOLUTION and if you saw what was witnessed in Ortley Beach, NJ on the night of July 5, 2008 I think you might agree as EVOLUTION brought back some classic memories to a lot of JOURNEY fans in attendance.

I personally have been aware of Hugo since his days with the bands VALENTINE (1989, Giant Records) and OPEN SKYZ (1993, RCA Records) and those groups always carried the requisite JOURNEY comparisons. As Hugo points out “At the end of the day I’ve always been compared to Steve Perry” so he hooked up with keyboardist Lance Millard and started EVOLUTION back in 2002 and a true “legacy” of their own was born. Hugo says they “kept it loose” in the beginning but in 2007 and 2008 the band has really seemed to hit its stride. These days they perform all around the country at private and corporate events meanwhile playing clubs and theaters for fans wanting to hear the legendary and timeless music of JOURNEY. Guitarist Adam Holland (also of VALENTINE fame) says, “We’ve taken it to the next level by playing theaters and corporate events and of course the appearance of the song “Don’t Stop Believin’” on the series finale of “The Sopranos” hasn’t hurt us either.” One of the bands managers (and also original VALENTINE/OPEN SKYZ bassist) Gerard Zappa says the band got 10,000 hits in one day on YouTube of a video clip from a performance they did at BB Kings Club in NYC recently. So things are certainly starting to take off for the band. They are currently playing out about 2-3 times per month in addition to the private and corporate events they do.

The guys are pretty diverse with their love of the JOURNEY music also as I asked them what some of their favorite songs are to play in their set. Holland answered, “Anytime” and “Feeling That Way” because as he’s says, “I like the bluesy, older stuff.” While drummer Mike Morales says he likes anything off the “Escape” album because that’s when he got into JOURNEY. Also, one of the cool things about EVOLUTION is Millard is an accomplished singer in his own right and it allows the band to take on the Gregg Rolie-era material with ease and conviction.

The band has also got some comments from Perry himself as they told a funny story of how a mutual acquaintance once brought up the band to him. Hugo explains “a dear friend of ours Robbie (Hoffman) who manages EXTREME was hanging out with Perry and Nuno (Bettencourt) while EXTREME was recording their new album and Robbie pulled out a picture of me on his cell phone and Steve saw me with my Steve Perry “yellow tiger” shirt on and he said, ‘Dude, he’s got my shirt! Where’d he get my shirt?!? I don’t think he’s big on surfing the Internet but he is at least aware of the band!”

So things are certainly kicking into high gear for the band these days. If you are fan of classic JOURNEY music and EVOLUTION ever comes to a town nearby you will definitely want to check them out because if you close your eyes for just a second, everything old will be new again with EVOLUTION on stage!

I’m now going to turn the things over to Dave here at Rockeyez as he takes you through the review of the EVOLUTION show we attended at the Surf Club in Ortley Beach, NJ

Thanks Mark!

As the saying goes, if it looks like JOURNEY, sounds like JOURNEY and even smells like JOURNEY… it must be, JOURNEY, right?!? Well in this case, nothing could be further from the truth.

Just to reiterate what Mark was saying. I picked up a copy of the new JOURNEY CD “Revelations” myself and there is no doubt that their new singer Arnel Pineda has got a heck of a voice and I was pleasantly surprised with the new material, however, the thing that really got under my skin was the fact that they re-recorded some classic JOURNEY songs with him. To me, being a long time JOURNEY fan, there was just no reason for it other than to try and slap Steve Perry in the face. Well, let me tell ya… despite what they may think, Pineda is NO Steve Perry and, agreeing with Mark again, if JOURNEY really wanted to get that vintage JOURNEY sound and feel, other than Perry himself, the only logical person to turn to is Hugo.

In my opinion, I think the only reason that Hugo is not in the band is because I think every time Schon took a look across the stage at him, it would be almost like seeing a ghost! Mark, Hugo and myself actually joked about that a little bit before EVOLUTION took the stage, but it’s the truth! A lot of people may “look” like someone else or they may “sound” like someone else, but to have both the look and sound in the same package?!? That’s rare and I just don’t think Neal could handle it.

But so be it! Hugo and the rest of the band are doing quite well on their own and after finally witnessing the spectacle of EVOLUTION’s live show, I was impressed even more. As the lights dimmed and the band took the stage, Millard began to play the opening keyboards to “Separate Ways.” Then as Holland and the rest of the band kicked in finally followed by Hugo’s tremendous voice, I closed my eyes for just a moment and was transported back the Meadowlands Arena in 1987 to one of the first concerts I ever attended, JOURNEY! The REAL JOURNEY! I remember the experience as if it was just yesterday and since that time, I have seen JOURNEY at least another half a dozen times but they were never able to duplicate the experience I had that night. But in just a few short moments, EVOLUTION did.

What an incredible experience for any JOURNEY fan! These guys are just amazing and their two set lists through out the evening revisited the glory days of the band and played almost like an extended greatest hits CD. From songs like “Feeling That Way,” “Anytime,” and “Just The Same Way” when both Rolie and Perry shared microphone duties to hits like “Stone In Love,”“Who’s Crying Now” and “Where Were You” which marked the end of the “Rolie” era, and straight on through the 80’s with tracks like “Be Good To Yourself,” “Ask The Lonely,” and “Only The Young” when Perry was king, EVOLUTION never missed a beat and thrilled the crowd to a performance not even JOURNEY themselves can reproduce anymore.

And those songs were just the tip of the iceberg!

Of course they played ALL the classics such as “Lights,” “Wheel In The Sky” and a phenomenal version of “Any Way You Want It” which nearly blew the roof right off the Surf Club and out into the ocean! They reached into the JOURNEY archives with a couple of a bit more obscure songs from “Escape” including an awe-inspiring rendition of “Mother Father” and their version of the title track “Escape” which kicked off their second set and just about left me breathless! I in NO way expected them to do that and hearing it again live after so much time was really a rare thrill since it’s always been my favorite JOURNEY song.

Hugo was really on and even had Perry’s body movements and persona down to a science. And what a band behind him! Holland flawlessly nailed every chord and every lick in Schon’s repertoire and even added a touch of his own flair to Schon’s already brilliant solos. The rhythm section of Morales and Jansson plain and simply wailed and thundered through the cool, ocean air all night long and as for Millard? Whether he was dueling Hugo on vocals singing Gregg Rolie’s parts on the older tracks or pounding the keys on Jonathan Cain’s melodies, this guy is just one HELL of a performer!

Other songs of note included a heart-felt version of “I’ll Be Alright Without You” which always brings back a lot of memories to me from that time, the bluesy, sexy “Lovin, Touchin, Squeezin, and the fan favorite “Don’t Stop Believin” towards the end of their second set which really got everyone in the place up on their feet and singing along like it was 1982 all over again! Then, of course, what JOURNEY show would be complete without their timeless ballad “Open Arms.”

What an incredible evening with an amazing group of musicians. This is no mere “cover” band! This is one band that honestly and truly lives up to their moniker as “The Ultimate JOURNEY Tribute!” And let me tell ya something… and I mean this sincerely... nowadays and with the state the actual band JOURNEY is in, I would much rather see an EVOLUTION show any day of the week over an actual JOURNEY show. If you’re a JOURNEY fan, keep an eye out for these guys… even go out of your way to see them because if you’re like me, it won’t take more than just a few moments for EVOLUTION to whisk you away to a better time where everything old can truly become new again.

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