BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — The resurgence of Journey through the band’s discovery of a new lead singer via the Internet gets a close-up look on a new PBS documentary.
“Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey” airs on Sept. 30 as part of the network’s Independent Lens series.
It’s the story of how Journey guitarist Neal Schon found a replacement for front man Steve Perry by searching YouTube videos, and the band’s eventual integration of Arnel Pineda into its lineup.
It wasn’t easy.
Some longtime Journey fans were initially reluctant to accept the presence of Pineda, a 45-year-old Filipino singer, into an American band that had been dominated by Perry’s presence and soaring vocals.
“We still have fans of our music showing up in the last year that don’t know Steve Perry isn’t in the band,” keyboardist Jonathan Cain told the Television Critics Association on Tuesday.
Perry was replaced for the first time in 1998.
Cain recalled doing a concert in a U.S. city that he declined to name after Pineda joined Journey in December 2007.
“It took them 30 minutes to finally wrap their heads around the fact that this guy could sing his butt off,” he said. “At the end of the show, they were all applauding Arnel’s efforts.”
Pineda perfected his English by reading English-language newspapers and using a dictionary to look up words he didn’t understand. He wasn’t troubled by hardcore Perry fans that compared the two singers.
“I never had a slight feeling of intimidation,” he said. “I’m not even trying to compete with Mr. Perry. I’m just trying to help out.”
Pineda was initially found by Schon singing Journey covers in YouTube videos. The band brought him to San Francisco to audition.
“I found some good guys, but I didn’t feel they had the strength and the power in their pipes to carry themselves over the power of our music,” Schon said. “Arnel, I said, ‘This guy is the real deal.”’
Cain credited Pineda for stoking new interest in the group famous for such hits as “Don’t Stop Believin’,” “Faithfully” and “Open Arms.”
“He has his own style that he’s developed,” he said. “We have a whole new fan base. Filipino nation is showing up at our shows.”
Journey’s older music continues to find new life on Broadway, television, movies and at sporting events.
“We’re finding young school kids singing these songs and they weren’t raised with these songs,” Schon said. “We still obviously love doing it. To rebuild this band from nothing 10 years ago was quite a feat.”
The band resumes its current tour Aug. 15 in Kinder, La., and will play two sold-out dates in Chicago later this month.