Journey drummer urges fans to not stop believing in band

Ever since Journey reunited in 1998 without singer Steve Perry, the band has had to deal with the popularity Perry helped create, as his supple, note-stretching voice became one of the biggest signature elements in hits such as “Don’t Stop Believin’,” “Open Arms,” “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)” and “Anyway You Want It.”

Perry’s shadow perhaps looms larger than ever over Journey thanks to the renewed popularity the group has enjoyed over the past few years, spurred in part by having several of its hit songs used on hit television shows, commercials and in movies.

The leader of the pack has been “Don’t Stop Believin’,” which introduced Journey to a new young audience when it was used in the final episode of TV’s “The Sopranos” and later was performed on “Glee.”

The band will perform at the 6,000-seat Kansas Star Arena in Mulvane on Saturday in a sold-out show.

According to drummer Deen Castronovo, some concert-goers don’t know that Perry left Journey and the band is on its third singer since then with Arnel Pineda. And there are a significant number of fans who want Perry back and haven’t fully accepted Journey in its current form.

“You still have haters out there, sure you do,” Castronovo said, noting that he understands their feelings. “I mean, to me, I’ve said it in a million interviews. Steve Perry is a god to me. I mean, he was one of the first singers I ever tried to sing to when I was 11 or 12 years old. I mean, to me, he’s one of the greatest singers of my generation, and the fans feel the same way, some of them. Yeah, they can be kind of nasty. They can be rough, and you see the reviews. We have a lot of racial things sometimes (aimed at Pineda, who is from

the Philippines), and that’s kind of tough. We have a lot of ‘Journey without Steve Perry is a karaoke band.’ OK, if that’s what you feel, but you know what? We still go out there and we deliver.”

For those who feel Journey is not Journey without Perry, Castronovo had some other things to say about Pineda, 44, that should clear up any questions about the current singer’s place in the band.

“Let’s put it this way: If Arnel decides to leave this band, the band is done,” Castronovo said. “We’re not going to go find another singer. It’s just silly to do that.

“He goes out there and he gives it his all, he really does,” the drummer said. “And we respect him and love him like a brother, and I think he knows that. He feels that with us. … The chemistry is right. And with other singers, the chemistry wasn’t as good. When he came in and auditioned – dude, we knew. Not only is he singing great, but what a sweetheart.”

Journey has indeed had its issues with singers since its first run of popularity with Perry.

After gaining major success in the late 1970s and early 1980s with a string of hit albums – “Evolution,” “Departure,” “Escape” (the band’s biggest success), “Frontiers” and “Raised On Radio” – the band broke up for nearly a decade before reuniting briefly in the mid-1990s, only to see Perry leave the band for good after one album, the 1996 release “Trial by Fire.”

The group’s remaining core members, Neal Schon (guitar), Jonathan Cain (keyboards) and Ross Valory (bass), then brought in Castronovo on drums and singer Steve Augeri to complete the new Journey.

Augeri bowed out in 2006 and was briefly replaced by Jeff Scott Soto before Schon discovered Pineda on a YouTube video and brought him on board as Journey’s current singer.

Journey without Perry, though, didn’t return to arena-filling popularity right away.

“I remember Jonathan saying, ‘You know what? We have to re-educate the people. This is not going to be easy,’ ” Castronovo said. “We were playing to 1,500 people a night, and they were all arms crossed, going there’s no way that this band is going to sound good without Steve Perry. And it took us a good five years of constant touring and constant work and constant re-education for people to realize, you know what? No matter who’s in that band, it’s the songs that are timeless. It’s the songs that people connect with. It doesn’t matter who’s playing them or singing them.”

That certainly seems to be the case as Journey once again consistently sells out amphitheaters and arenas on tour. And the current U.S. tour is built to please fans of both the Perry and post-Perry eras of the band, Castronovo said. (The current group has released two studio CDs, “Revelation” in 2008 and “Eclipse” in 2011.)

“We’re doing all the hits, what we call the dirty dozen,” Castronovo said. “We do all of those and then we get to throw in a few surprises here and there, like from ‘Revelation’ or ‘Eclipse’ or something like that. It’s really fun.”