FAIRBORN — The last time drummer Steve Smith toured with Journey, he was in his late 20s, had most of his hair and loved the rock and roll lifestyle.
Now in his 60s, Smith sports the popular bald look and is a more responsible adult.
“(It’s) a lot more relaxed,” Smith said by phone while walking around Chicago with his wife. “As grown ups here, we have a lot of other things to deal with. It changes the dynamics a lot.”
But one thing that hasn’t changed after all these years is what happens when the house lights dim and the stage lights come on.
Journey can still rock.
“Every night we rise to the occasion,” Smith said. “We want to give the people a strong concert and we do that consistently. We’re filling up everywhere we’re going. People are having a wonderful time. Enjoying the music.”
Fans will be able to see that first-hand Tuesday, April 4 as the band performs at Wright State’s Nutter Center with special guest Asia, a 1980s supergroup.
And after that three-decade absence, Smith is happy to be a part of it once again.
“I’m having a really great time,” he said. “Playing the music and reconnecting with everyone. We actually have a real nice time.”
Smith was the band’s drummer from 1978 until 1985, when he left the band in 1985 to pursue his original passion, jazz. Smith was part of what was arguably the band’s greatest period when hits such as “Any Way You Want It,” “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’,” “Who’s Crying Now,” “Open Arms,” and “Don’t Stop Believin’,” were released. “Don’t Stop” is the No. 1 digital catalog song in history, with more than 5.4 million in the U.S., according to the band’s website.
Smith rejoined the band briefly in 1996 to record the reunion album Trial By Fire, but he and the band again went their, uh, separate ways. When drummer Deen Castronovo was let go from the band due to alleged legal trouble in 2015, Smith had some time in his busy schedule and agreed to rejoin the band for a tour beginning in 2016.
“It felt like the right time,” Smith said. “I was able to plan ahead a year in my schedule.”
With Smith back in the drum chair, one of the most popular bands in the 70s and 80s is almost completely intact. Singer Arnel Pineda has been with the band since 2007. The rest are either founding members or what people would call “classic lineup” members. It begs the question how did they do it, when so many bands now have only a couple original or classic members.
“That’s a good question, but I can’t really answer that,” Smith admitted. “They’re the ones that have kept it alive. I’m not really qualified to answer that question. I have just been focused on my own solo career for the last 30 years.”
Smith has had quite the successful solo career and is considered one of the top 25 drummers of all time by several publications. But it’s his work with Journey that he’s known for the best, and he will gladly take that as he and the rest of the band will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Friday, April 7.
“It’s quite an honor,” Smith said. “You never know if it’s going to happen or not. It’s very exciting when it does. We’re very pleased the band has been chosen.”
Steve Perry, who was the front man on so many Journey hits will be in attendance, Smith said. But it’s unclear if he will sing. Regardless, the band is more than content with Pineda, who “really adds a whole new dimension to the band.”
A band Smith is once again thrilled to be a part of.
Formed in 1973, Journey has produced 19 top 40 singles and 25 gold and platinum albums. Its Greatest Hits is certified 15 times platinum, catapulting the band into the elite club of diamond certified. Opener Asia, with founding members Geoff Downes and Carl Palmer are, had hits with “Heat of the Moment,” and “Only Time Will Tell.”
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.
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