Friday, March 15, 2013

Journey Plucks Lead Singer From YouTube Obscurity In DON’T STOP BELIEVIN’

This new documentary, rockumentary if you will, as Marty DiBergi would say, is now playing in selected cities across the country:


(Dir. Ramona S. Diaz, 2012)

Dammit! I can never escape Journey.

Over three decades since they first tortured me via AOR radio, the San Francisco band's particular brand of schlocky power balladry is still unavoidable. The use of the song “Don’t Stop Believin’” in the controversial last episode of The Sopranos has had a lot to do with the current resurgence of the band’s popularity that came to an ugly head in last summer’s awful ‘80s hair rock homage ROCK OF AGES (happily that movie flopped).

I should’ve accepted by now that Journey is a corporate rock machine, one that will keep going even if it has to replace a vital part. This documentary, the debut full length feature by director Ramona S. Diaz, is about the most recent replacement of the band’s lead singer in 2008, for an album and tour that was already in the works.

What’s interesting, or at least amusing, is how they went about finding their man. Guitarist and founding member Neil Schon trolled YouTube watching clips of Journey cover bands and tribute artists in a desperate last minute search to find a Steve Perry sound-alike for what he calls that “legacy sound.”

Schon happened upon videos of Arnel Pineda, a Filipino singer/songwriter who could imitate Perry’s vocal chops impeccably. Schon sent Pineda an email offering him the job that stressed “this is not a joke,” and before you know it, the skinny energetic 40-year old was fronting the band he idolized.

And then suddenly, Journey has more of an international appeal.

This is all established in the first 15 minutes so after that the documentary goes in circles through Journey’s history, stuff that was better covered in their episode of VH1’s Behind The Music, and through footage of the band onstage and backstage on their Revelation Tour ‘08.

Despite the name of the tour depicted, there are no real revelations in the backstage stuff, which is the kind of fluff that fills up special features on concert Blu ray or DVD releases, and the lengthy chunks of the band performing to thousands of appreciative fans will only be appreciated by those same fans.

Diaz’s documentary is most compelling when it touches on the fans that weren’t on board with Pineda joining Journey. We see Pineda reacting to cruel racist posts on internet message boards like one that yells 
with all caps: ONLY FILIPINOS WILL SUPPORT TIS CRAPPY SINGER!!!!!! (misspelling kept intact).

“I think he should be from here,” says one young female concertgoer, who stresses she’s not being racist. Another girl in the same concert venue parking lot counters with “He sounds just like him, and it’s still music.” Well, at least she’s half right. No, that’s a cheap shot, but I wish they spent more time with the white trash fans getting drunk and spouting out inanities before the show, but that’s probably because it reminded me of HEAVY METAL PARKING LOT (Jeff Krulik’s 1986 short shot in the parking lot of a Judas Priest that lives up to its cult reputation).

It’s all well and good, that Pineda was able to overcome the poverty of the streets of Manila and the rough living of his youth to hit the big-time, and it’s great he could buy his family a nice house and all, but the way that this is packaged, like an inspirational polemic is laughable. It seems to be saying that you too could be plucked from YouTube obscurity to front your favorite band, so don’t stop believin’ in your dreams, kids!

Pineda’s storyline weaving through the history of Journey’s branding does have uplifting elements, and he seems like a nice guy humbled by the spotlight, but, hey, it’s a one in a million tale of luck. No amount of belief will change that, even if it goes on and on and on and on and on…

More later...

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I'm impressed with your light hand in dissing the posterboys of corporate schlock-rock. You must have had to hold back something awful.

"This is not a joke" (unlike their entire recorded catalog...)