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Rio Tinto kicks off Journey, Foreigner, Night Ranger Tour
by Doug Fox - Daily Herald
July 21, 2011

Journey drummer Deen Castronovo simply has to be one of the most animated interviews of all time.

During the course of a 25-minute phone chat with Castronovo last week, one could easily conjure up the image of him bouncing off the walls in anticipation of beginning the band's "Eclipse" summer U.S. tour -- a three-tiered package that also includes rock hit-makers Foreigner and Night Ranger. The highly anticipated tour kicks off tonight at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy.

One of the perks of touring with other great bands, said Castronovo, is hanging out at the venue all night and watching the other groups rock their sets. In that sense, he's every bit as much a fan as the thousands who purchase tickets at every stop.

"Oh yeah, dude, are you kidding?" Castronovo said when asked if he was going to make time to check out the other bands. "I'm a huge fan, dude. As much as I'm perceived as being peers with those gentlemen and then the bands we've worked with, I'm a fan -- I don't think I'm a peer at all. It's like, still, I get googly and piggly every time I see, like, Kiss or any of those guys. I freak out! They're just gods to me!"

Of all the words one could use to describe Castronovo, jaded would never be one of them. His comments were liberally sprinkled with excited exclamations like "dude," "bro" and "awesome!" In fact, if there were one TV character that comes close to matching the reading on Castronovo's enthusiasm-for-life meter, it would have to be Toby, Elaine's live-wire office colleague on the "Seinfeld" Season 5 episode titled "The Fire."

"Brimming with positivity," as Kramer described Toby in that episode, is a phrase that aptly sums up Castronovo's present outlook.

"I mean, there's no way else to be, in my opinion, because life is really, really good right now -- no reason to be sad or down or bummed," he said. "Life is darn good right now."

Castronovo's attitude might stem from his seemingly charmed life as a musician. He grew up in Salem, Ore., and moved to San Francisco in his early 20s. It was there that a chance encounter with Journey guitarist Neal Schon forever changed his career arc.

Castronovo was playing a session with well-known jazz, fusion guitarist Tony McAlpine when Schon happened to walk in and joined in jam. Afterward, Schon asked Castronovo for his phone number, saying he wanted to play some more with him. Sure enough, Schon, who was looking to start a new group during a period when Journey was disbanded, called Castronovo a week later and included him in the lineup of Bad English, a supergroup of sorts that also included Babys vocalist John Waite, Journey keyboardist/songwriter Jonathan Cain, himself formerly of the Babys, and Babys bassist Rickey Phillips, who is now in Styx.

Castronovo has been pounding out the backbeat for Schon's soaring melodic riffs almost ever since, including other band projects such as Hardline, Planet Us and Soul SirkUS -- not to mention Journey, which he joined when the group reunited in 1998 sans popular vocalist Steve Perry.

From avowed fan growing up, to a member of Journey for 13 years now, Castronovo has a unique perspective on the band's legacy and why its songs still resonate with the masses after all these years.

"You know what? The songs are timeless. The music is timeless," Castronovo said. "Steve Perry [was] one of the greatest singers. Honestly, those three guys, Neal, Jonathan and Perry, to me of course, I think are some of the greatest songwriters of our generation as well. Those songs are timeless. And ... the fans embrace the stuff because it's real. You know, you can conjure up sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll and do all that crap, but these guys write what fans want to hear. I believe that they're music fans as well as I am, and they listen to the fans. And the music ... resonates with the audience, our music does. I'm so fortunate."

As one example, Castronovo cited the incredible endurance of the hit "Don't Stop Believin'," which, thanks to its use in shows like "The Sopranos" and "Glee," has not only taken on a life of its own, but a second and third life of its own on the way to cult status.

"I just heard on [nationally syndicated radio show] 'Mark and Brian' yesterday that the biggest song of the 80s -- of ALL the 80s -- is 'Don't Stop Believin'.' I couldn't believe that!" Castronovo said, although it was unclear if his pun was intended or not. "I wish I would have written that song, man! I could be retired by now! What a great tune. ... Journey's music is positive. You never hear any negativity. You never hear about doing drugs, partying or tearing up chicks -- it's just not about that. And I believe that that kind of music stands the test of time. Bands like the sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll bands, they come and go. Journey has never done that."

While Journey has its hit-laden catalog to rely on in concert -- the band has playfully dubbed its must-perform songs "The Dirty Dozen" -- the group has always been one to feature new material prominently in its set. This tour will be no exception, with Castronovo expecting at least four songs from the band's brand new "Eclipse" album to be a part of every show.

"The reason we're out on tour in the first place is to promote the new record," he said. "You know, we've been playing what we call 'The Dirty Dozen' for so many years and, yes, we have to keep playing those, but we're out there to promote the new record and we're also out there to have fun, and as much as we love playing the old stuff, it's a lot more fun to be playing new stuff, I guarantee it."

The new songs which have been getting the most concert treatment include "City of Hope," "Chain of Love," "Edge of the Moment," "Tantra" and "Resonate."

"Those are the best ones so far that we've gotten crowd responses from," he said. "We'll be switching around here and there, I'm sure. As the tour progresses, we'll go, 'Let's try this one off the new record.' Like, I'd love to do 'Someone,' that's one of my favorite tunes on the record. And, also, I love 'Anything is Possible.' Love that tune! There's a lot of options we've got, so I'm sure we'll be switching and changing."

"Eclipse" marks the second studio album with lead singer Arnel Pineda, the Filipino vocalist Schon famously found via YouTube clips in 2007. (For the uninitiated, following Perry's departure, Journey's lead vocalist genealogy went from Augeri to Jeff Scott Soto and now Pineda.)

According to Castronovo, Pineda has grown into his role as frontman famously.

"The great part about the new record is, well, with Arnel basically, we can go in any direction musically," he said. "The man can sing anything, and that's what makes him so special. Also, he solidified us as a family unit, I mean out here. He's definitely turned into one of us. I think on the first tour he was feeling us out and we were feeling him out. But now it's like we just bonded. And it's so much fun. Especially he and I, we goof off backstage constantly. He and I are just psychotic. You see the other three guys looking at us like, "Oh my gosh" -- and we're just freaking bouncing off the walls. It's great, it's been really great. And he fits in perfectly."

Pineda brings a Perry-esque timbre to Journey classics, such as "Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)," "Ask the Lonely," "Wheel in the Sky," "Escape," "Open Arms," "Faithfully" and "Any Way You Want It," which leads to mostly faithful renditions in concert. That, combined with the catalogs of Foreigner and Night Ranger, guarantees that Rio Tinto Stadium will be the backdrop for wall-to-wall hits tonight.

"You're talking about songs that have some of the most memorable hooks in the history of rock 'n' roll, really," said John Urban, executive vice president of events and new business at Rio Tinto Stadium. "I also think it's good time, fun, party rock as well. It creates an atmosphere as well where people are singing along -- people are going to know the set from start to finish. Journey fans have already picked up the new record and learned that front to back already as well. There's a great appeal there, when you talk about having such a big catalog, and such a depth and breadth of music that's so familiar to folks. You know, you can't beat that. I don't know that you could talk about bands that that would be truer of than the bands we're talking about. I mean, it's really extraordinary the amount of music and familiarity in all three catalogs. It's great stuff."

Landing the opening night of the three-package tour gives tonight's event some added cachet.

"Any time you get an opening-night feel and a first chance, it makes the market feel a little bit special," Urban said. "It makes the fans feel a little, you know, [like] there's just an extra little bit of icing on the cake."

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