Monday, Oct. 14, 2019 | 2 a.m.
There are plenty of Las Vegas shows that could be accurately described as transportive experiences. But the opening keyboard riff of “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)” to start Journey’s new residency at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace on Wednesday night seemed to blast all 4,000 of us straight to 1983 in a very definitive way.
For me, it was the second reminder of the night that there was a Journey-themed arcade game in the early ’80s that was very difficult to conquer. I took my older brother to the show and before the band got to rocking, he reminded me how we’d ride our bikes or walk up the block to the Dairy Mart to get a snack and drop some quarters in one of the convenience store’s two video game cabinets. I gave up on Journey early on, losing interest in the game’s goal of reuniting each band member — Steve Perry, Neal Schon, Jonathan Cain, Steve Smith and Ross Valory — with their musical instrument. I preferred kung-fu battles and Pac-Man pellet chomping.
You might read that paragraph as an unnecessary digression, but it’s very relevant to this concert residency and many others selling tickets on the Las Vegas Strip these days. All these headliners inevitably play a song (or many songs) that spark nostalgic memories for their fans and audiences and that’s pretty much why these shows are generally successful. That video game is also meaningful because with the exception of Perry, this is the Journey lineup performing at the Colosseum for the rest of this month and again with four shows in December.
Like Aerosmith and Def Leppard have done earlier this year in their respective venues, Journey smashes its massive arena rock show into this much more intimate venue, refusing to tone down the volume or theatrics. Founding member and guitarist Neal Schon takes every opportunity to unleash extended, squealing guitar solos. Drummer Steve Smith, who rejoined the band four years ago, gets plenty of time for a booming solo of his own, jubilantly hammering a gong to wrap it up. Longtime member and key songwriter Jonathan Cain gets to tell the tales behind the tunes and show off his keyboard skills. The show has all the stuff.
Arnel Pineda, who famously became Journey’s new vocalist in 2007 after a long career in cover bands in the Philippines, shines on classic ballads like “Open Arms” and “Faithfully” and the San Francisco anthem “Lights,” but usually he’s leading a sing-along of thousands more than he’s leading the band. On Wednesday night, confetti cannons boomed at the end of “Don’t Stop Believin’” and the group returned for an encore of “Any Way You Want It.” And after a tight 90 minutes, Journey’s fans had all the memories they needed.
Journey plays the Colosseum at Caesars Palace (3570 Las Vegas Blvd. South, 866-234-7469) at 8 p.m. October 16, 18, 19, 23, 25 and 26 and more information can be found at caesars.com.