photo by Marya Pennington

Relivin’ the Journey

March 21, 2024

by marya pennington

There was a chill in the air, but the energy outside of MetraPark was anything but. We made our way down to the arena amidst a wave of fans that have been “Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin’” the Journey vibe for decades, and couldn’t wait to do it again. Everyone was dressed in their coolest '80s rock gear (personally, I was sporting high-top chucks and a denim jacket) and were ready to party hard. 

For a Generation Xer like me, Journey was a big part of my formative growing-up experience. Belting out the lyrics to “Anyway You Want It” on my way to the mall, I felt like I could be a rock star someday, too. Even today, if a D.J. plays “Don’t Stop Believin’” at a wedding, you can be sure I will be the first one to start the conga line, singing at the top of my lungs. So, it’s no surprise I was stoked for this concert.

photo by Marya Pennington

We found our seats just as the opening act started their set, and I have to be honest, I didn’t think I knew any songs by Toto other than their most famous hit, “Africa.” I was wrong, I knew several others, but I didn’t even really care as I soaked in the electromagnetism of lead guitarist Steve Lukather. As a fellow guitarist (albeit, I play acoustic and more campfire songs than anything), I was mesmerized by his skill with the instrument and the notes flowing across the stage. Not a single person in the house was “getting beer and waiting for the real act to come out” as we were thoroughly entertained by this fantastic opener.

While waiting for the main event, we grabbed some beverages and a 50th anniversary stonewashed Journey T-shirt that I told my husband we could share (but let’s be honest, there’s no way he’s ever seeing that shirt again). As we made our way back to our seats, I couldn’t help but notice the diversity of the fans at this gig. I passed several groups of teens who looked as if they had walked right out of my high school in 1988 (but without the big hair) to come across a crowd of attendees I’m pretty sure were on the Boomer end of the spectrum. Now I don’t know about you, but it’s pretty rare to see four generations of people wanting to share the same space to enjoy the same pop culture. My grandma always used to say that “music brings people together,” and in this case, she was absolutely spot on.

And then it was time. With their 50th Anniversary Celebration Freedom Tour, this legendary diamond-selling Rock & Roll Hall of Famer rock band hit the stage. And let me tell you, yes, the crowd went wild. As a Billings-born Montana native, I’ve seen a lot of concerts at MetraPark, but I have never seen a bigger house – there wasn’t an empty seat in the place. From “One Love” to “Lightning Strike” and on down the list, we sang, we fist pumped, we screamed, we stood and we partied like it was 1989. Neal Schon, lead guitarist and 3-time Hall of Fame inductee (Oklahoma Hall of Fame, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and Grammy Hall of Fame) and Jon Cain on keys (recipient of two BMI songwriter awards and Hall of Famer) reminded us all why they are in those very halls. Schon is a shredding genius, playing guitar solos for days, and don’t get me started on the high-reaching and stellar vocals of Arnel Pineda. These guys just prove that some things actually do just get better as time goes on. 

As the cellphone lights popped on across the venue (and even a few lighters here and there) I was filled with the nostalgia that you get when you are with your best and oldest friends. As if we were sharing this moment in time with all of our besties from high school (all 8,400 of them) and we didn’t want the moment to end. Journey felt it too, these lifelong friends that have spent their lives weaving the art of anthemic rock, as they turned the lights on for one final encore. And as we sang our hearts out to “Faithfully,” for one small moment, I felt young and hopeful again.

Never miss an issue, check out SLM's digital editions here! 

related articles:

Get local updates, events and special offers!

Local Events