CANTON − As Journey’s lead vocalist smoothly sang the chorus to the band’s mega hit, “Open Arms,” it felt like a perfect summer moment in Canton during the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival.
Most of the near-full audience joined in with a sing-along, with the crowd becoming a huge choir at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. Couples hugged and waved back and forth. Arms and hands waved in unison. Cell phones were charged to record video.
And there were many more similar moments on Saturday night as Journey lived up to the name of the annual festival show – the Concert for Legends.
Although some band members have changed and a different lead singer is now at the helm of the rock juggernaut, fans didn’t seem to notice a difference. And the band was sonically on point throughout the roughly two-hour performance.
Red and blue lights flashed and pulsed on a stage flanked by large video screens.
Founding member and guitar ace Neal Schon played famous licks of well-known songs. Schon often grinned and made eye contact with excited fans who pressed against the stage. Singer Arnel Pineda also often smiled while gesturing or pointing at the crowd.
In addition to dealing with fans and cheerfully calling Canton by name many times, Pineda was vocally impeccable, reaching skyscraper notes with ease and humming softly during ballads.
Journey rolled out a reliable parade of big hits: “Don’t Stop Believin,” “Open Arms,” ”Lovin,” Touchin, “Squeezin,” “Who’s Crying Now,” “Girl Can’t Help It.” “Lights” and many others.
A wave of applause often greeted songs at the opening notes, including “Faithfully.”
Donnie Iris defies age and sings lyrics
Donnie Iris and the Cruisers kicked off the Concert for Legends with a lot of passion before Journey took the stage around 9pm
79-year-old Iris sings lyrics while his band members keep the energy up with powerful guitars and percussion supplemented with keyboards.
Wearing an AC/DC shirt and ripped jeans, Iris defied age with his trademark high-pitched screams, vocal harmonies, and the occasional guitar shred.
The band played some of its signature songs dating back to its heyday in the early 1980s. The band’s biggest hits were enthusiastic reactions ― “Ah! Leah!” and “Love is like a rock.” Other classic songs were “Agnes”, “Do You Compute?” and “That’s the way love should be.”
Iris often raised his arms in cheers or dropped to his knees at the edge of the stage. Fans cheered him on as he let go of his signature scream, his face contorted.
During “Love Is Like a Rock,” Iris paid special attention to a group of fans wearing Pittsburgh Steelers jerseys. The Pennsylvania native lives in the Pittsburgh area and is a fan of the NFL team.
Towards the end of his approximately 45-minute set, Iris expanded the crowd favorite and encouraged the audience to sing along to the chorus, “LOVE IS LIKE A ROCK!” The Steelers fans pumped their arms in the air and sang along.
Presented by the Village Hall of Fame, the concert concluded a busy day of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival, which began with The Canton Repository Grand Parade, followed by the inauguration ceremony for the 2022 class of inductees: Tony Boselli, Cliff Branch, LeRoy Butler, Art McNally, Sam Mills, Richard Seymour, Dick Vermeil and Bryant Young.
Performing with Iris were guitarist Marty Lee Hoenes, of North Canton; Cleveland keyboardist Mark Avsec; drummer Kevin Valentine; and bassist Paul Goll.
After charting charts and touring nationally, including opening for Foreigner, Hall & Oats, Loverboy, Joan Jett and Bon Jovi, Donnie Iris and the Cruisers now play approximately 10 shows a year in Pennsylvania and Ohio.
Journey’s Canton Show: A Parade of 80s Hits
Journey had other hits, including a number of songs from the 1981 release, ‘Escape’, 1983 ‘Frontier’ and the 1986 album ‘Raised on Radio’.
Journey also features the song “Let It Rain” from the recently released new album “Freedom”, the band’s first since 2011’s “Eclipse”.
Another highlight was Schon’s guitar solo, where he impresses with both bluesy passion and technical prowess, evoking guitar greats such as the late Eddie Van Halen.
Journey was inducted into the rock hall in 2017
Touring band members include Jonathan Cain (keyboards and backing vocals), who joined Journey in 1980.
This marked a return to northeast Ohio for Journey, who performed at Cleveland’s Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in May.
Formed in the early 1970s, the band has sold over 100 million records worldwide, including two albums that sold over 10 million individually. Journey was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2017.
Journey fans attend Canton concert as wedding anniversary gift
Journey, meanwhile, attracted many fans wearing T-shirts representing various albums and tours over the decades.
Cindy Urbansky, 54, of Strongsville, missed her chance to see Journey in concert when she was in high school.
“My parents were strict, so I wasn’t allowed to go,” she said with a grin.
“It was one of those situations where all your friends went, and the next day at school they all talk about it,” she said, smiling again.
Saturday’s concert was finally her chance. She had only seen Journey tribute bands.
Urbansky attended the Concert for Legends with her husband, Don Urbansky, his brother, Bob Urbansky, and Denise Urbansky.
Other Journey fans included Jeff and Katie Harmer, from the Apple Valley area of Knox County. Jeff bought his wife’s front row tickets as a wedding present.
“When (Jeff) was in high school, he had tickets to Journey with Steve Perry,” Katie said. “And he was going to bring his girlfriend. Well, he and his girlfriend broke up on the day of the concert, so they couldn’t even go.’
Jeff smiled at the story and later revealed that he still has the unused tickets from the concert.
“So in 2009 it was his first (Journey) concert,” Katie said. “And we’ve been addicted to them ever since.”
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