In 2007, Journey was at a career crossroads of sorts. Singer Jeff Scott Soto replaced Steve Augeri, who had sung with the band since 1998, the year before, but by mid 2007, Soto was out as well. The band took to YouTube to look for a replacement and found one in Filipino singer Arnel Pineda, who has held the role ever since. It helps that Pineda's vocals sound uncannily like Steve Perry's, too.
After the success of the group's debut album with Pineda, the Wal-Mart-exclusive Revelation, the band decided to go that route again in 2009, with the DVD Live in Manila. The show was a homecoming for Pineda, filmed in front of 30,000 adoring fans. Now the show has been rereleased, with the concert audio available on CD for the first time, as the DVD/CD Journey -- Live in Manila.
After a brief instrumental medley of "The Journey/Majestic," the band opens with "Never Walk Away," a then-new song from Revelation. The track is an upbeat rocker with Pineda doing his best Perry impression and filled with massive Journey harmonies. It makes for a potent opener and could easily fit on any of the band's 80s heyday albums. A powerful "Only The Young" follows. Pineda gives a confident vocal over this fan favorite while Neal Schon displays his trademark virtuosity on guitar.
"Stone In Love" finds Pineda pushing the limits of his vocal range and he seemingly has room to spare. The Journey catalog is one of the toughest of any band's to sing and he nails these songs as if he sang them originally. The band for their part is spot on throughout.
Pineda was not the only great singer in this lineup. Drummer Deen Castronovo turns in an emotional vocal on the Escape ballad, "Mother, Father," that is equal to anything Pineda delivers in this show. It's that good. Sadly, his off-stage problems led to his eventual departure (No pun intended) from the band. Schon and keyboardist Jonathan Cain show off their chops in a lengthy guitar and piano intro to "Open Arms." The track is one of the most identifiable Perry numbers and Pineda nails it, reveling in the opportunity to sing this material.
After a series of one hit after another, including the ubiquitous "Don't Stop Believin'," the show closes with an energetic "Be Good To Yourself." Here the band chooses to end the show as they began it, with an uplifting, positive number. Pineda returned home a hero, successfully convincing the crowd that he was the right man to lead Journey into the future.
The DVD is filmed in 16:9 Widescreen format and is well filmed. Audio options include DTS Digital Surround, Dolby Digital: Surround 5.1 and Stereo. The audio is full and powerful, befitting the music.
In spite of recent interpersonal feuds within the band over White House photo ops, the addition of Pineda has provided 10 years of stability for Journey and the closest thing the band will likely get to Perry in his prime. Filmed before an adoring crowd and with a killer set list to boot, Journey -- Live in Manila is a great souvenir for fans.