In ‘Don’t Stop Believin’, trying to hold on to that Journey feeling
BY THOMAS CONNER Pop Music Critic March 7, 2013 4:00PM
A scene from Ramona Diaz's DON'T STOP BELIEVIN': EVERYMAN'S JOURNEY, playing at the 55th San Francisco International Film Festival, April 19 - May 3, 2012.
‘DON’T STOP BELIEVIN’: EVERYMAN’S JOURNEY’ ★½
Cinedigm Entertainment Group presents a documentary directed by Ramona S. Diaz. Running time: 113 minutes. No MPAA rating. Opening Friday at AMC River East.
Updated: April 9, 2013 11:04AM
An in-depth documentary about the rock band Journey could be fairly interesting. Here’s a band that not only has been around since the early 1970s and has seen stratospheric commercial success (six No. 1 records, including the pop cultural ubiquity of “Don’t Stop Believin’”), but also has proven remarkably resilient despite a revolving door at the lead microphone. Stories from dozens of members, the “Behind the Music” narrative arc (at least three of them now), the whatever-happened-to-Steve Perry angle — it could all be pretty entertaining.
This, alas, is not that documentary. “Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey” is a 105-minute infomercial for a band some Americans won’t realize is still a going concern.
The film chronicles the discovery of Journey’s latest lead singer, Arnel Pineda, a young Filipino with a voice that’s a dead ringer for Perry, the voice behind all of Journey’s significant hits of the ’70s and ’80s. Truly, he’s spot-on. Singer Steve Augeri (with Journey from 1997-2006) was in the same general range, but Pineda belts those high-tenor hits exactly like Perry. Midway through the film, Perry’s live performance of the 1986 single “Be Good to Yourself” blends into Pineda singing the same song, and you’d hardly notice the switch if you were just listening.
The vocal resemblance is clearly all that matters to the band, with members unabashedly discussing the commercial utility at stake. Guitarist Neal Schon, who found Pineda via YouTube videos of his cover band in Manila, mentions, “There are plenty of guys you could use to get through a tour.” Pineda was the guy to get, though, because he came pre-packaged with the band’s lucrative “legacy sound” — Pineda’s words. It’s all about replacing the cog in the machine.
One fan interviewed outside a Journey show sums it up: “I mean, it’d be nice if it was the original band, but hey, he sounds just like him, and it’s still music, so it’s still just as good.” The documentary, however, does not pursue the not-so-subtle racism in another fan’s reaction to the new non-white singer — an emergent thread among the band’s fan base that has been written about widely since Pineda’s installation.
The bulk of “Everyman’s Journey” tells Pineda’s story from a hardscrabble life in Manila to leading a tired old classic-rock band around the world. The band’s vast history is skated through, and Perry’s legacy is merely implicit in Pineda’s raison d’etre. Most of the band members — Schon, Jonathan Cain (still mullet-tastic), Ross Valory and Deen Castronovo — are along for the ride, seemingly cheerful for any flurry of activity that might keep their enterprise in business.
Note: Journey will make its debut at Ravinia Festival with a two-night stand Aug. 20-21. Tickets on sale at ravinia.org.