Even as Neal Schon prepares solo project, Journey announces summer dates with Pat Benatar and Loverboy

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Neal Schon will be busy this summer, putting the finishing touches on a new solo release, even as Journey hits the road again for a series of summer concert dates.

They’re continuing to tour behind the well-received 2011 release Eclipse, which debuted at No. 13 on the Billboard 200 chart. It was the group’s second collaboration with Filipino lead singer Arnel Pineda.

[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: Steve Smith talks about reuniting with Neal Schon — and just how underrated that initial fusion-inspired edition of Journey still is.]

The initial six announced stops include cities California, Kentucky, Iowa and at Sturgis, South Dakota, between late July and late August. Also appearing with Journey this summer is Pat Benatar and Loverboy, except at Sturgis, where Benatar is sitting out. Complete concert dates, venues and cities are below.

Schon worked on his as-yet-unnamed new solo project with former Journey drummer Steve Smith, and the pair will also appear at the April 27 tribute concert for Ronnie Montrose, to be held in San Francisco. The duo will perform as members of the Ronnie Montrose All-Star Band, along with Styx’s Ricky Phillips, KISS’ Eric Singer and members of Y&T, Tesla and Mr. Big.

A new documentary focusing on Pineda called “Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey,” written and directed by Ramona S. Diaz, will premiere April 19 at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. The documentary also will be shown at the San Francisco International Film Festival 2012 on May 3.

Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on Journey. Click through the titles for complete reviews …

NEAL SCHON WITH STEVE SMITH, “THE CALLING” (2012): They play with a furious yet controlled abandon, sounding nothing like the smooth-swinging pop-rock that powered “Send Her My Love” or “The Eyes of a Woman.” Still, that doesn’t mean this doesn’t sound like Journey. It’s just Journey of a different vintage. Instead, “The Calling” recalls the heavy weather of 1977’s Next, with its thunderous rhythms and fretboard-melting riffs, but at the same time retains the free-form prog-rock inclinations of Journey’s 1975 debut. For fans of the original pre-Perry configuration of this band, Schon’s “The Calling” is like a letter from a long-lost friend.

JOURNEY – ECLIPSE (2011): In many ways, the initial cuts on Eclipse recall the wide-open heavy fusion of the the band’s original Gregg Rolie-era records, a period when guitarist Neal Schon pulled and stretched his muse. At the same time, singer Arnel Pineda possesses a second-act Steve Perry-sounding penchant for soaring expectancy. For age-old fans, that often makes this album the best of both worlds, a musically dense recording in the style of the band’s underrated 1977?s Next, and a loud one, but at the same time one that doesn’t completely abandon the visceral mainstream pop sensibilities that defined the band’s subsequent hitmaking period in the 1980s.

SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: GREGG ROLIE, FOUNDING MEMBER OF SANTANA AND JOURNEY: Gregg Rolie, a 1998 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, has learned a lot about himself since taking fame’s exit ramp to start a family almost 30 years ago. He’s put into perspective the work done as a founding member of Santana, a stint that saw Rolie co-produce the group’s first four albums beginning in 1969. The bluesy B-3 stylist then added to an overstuffed resume that already included an appearance at Woodstock, leaving with Neal Schon to launch Journey. There, he helped craft a series of 1970s recordings that set the stage for that band’s arena-rock supernova moment in the 1980s.

ONE TRACK MIND: JOURNEY, “FEELING THAT WAY/ ANYTIME” (1978; 2011 reissue): A new Greatest Hits Vol. 2 was, in some ways, more interesting than Journey’s initial best-of compilation — if only because its songs haven’t necessarily become ear-wormingly familiar. Perhaps the most potent examples are these twin 1978 gems from Infinity, Journey’s first project with Steve Perry. His appearance would immediately transform an interesting, if often unfocused jam band — co-led by Santana alums Gregg Rolie and Neal Schon — into a hit-making juggernaut. This album easily became the band’s biggest seller to date, as Journey moved toward a tighter focus on songcraft.

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Journey’s 2012 tour dates with Pat Benatar and Loverboy, so far:
July 22 – Stateline, CA, Harvey’s Outdoor Arena
July 24 – Paso Robles, CA, Main Grandstand, California Mid-State Fair
July 26 – Cheyenne, WY, Frontier Days
August 6 – Sturgis, SD, Buffalo Chip Campground Amphitheatre (without Benatar)
August 17 – Louisville, KY, Freedom Hall
August 18 – Des Moines, IA, Grandstand Iowa State Fair

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