FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Journey Through Trump’s America

On April 3, 2017 Journey performed at the iWireless Center in downtown Moline, Illinois, a venue named after a local cellphone provider notorious for its spotty coverage.  The concert was once again a sellout as loyal Journey followers made their annual perigrination to worship their favorite band.

Of the original Journey members—Neal Schon, Gregg Rolie, Ross Valory and George Tickner—who formed the band back in 1973, Rolie and Tickner had long ago parted company with the band before its current incarnation—which also includes Jonathan Cain, Steve Smith and Arnel Pineda—took the stage in Moline.  Pineda, a native of the Philipines, joined the band in 2007 after a clip of him performing Journey songs appeared on YouTube.

Journey has sold 48 million albums in the US and 90 million worldwide.  Their biggest selling album was Escape, released in 1981.  Dave Marsh of Rolling Stone called Escape one of the worst top-selling albums ever.  Their biggest hit on the album was “Don’t Stop Believing”, a song played three or four times daily on local “classic rock” stations, along with “Freebird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd, “Hotel California” by the Eagles, “Bad Company” by Bad Company, “More Than A Feeling” by Boston, “Carry On My Wayward Son” by Kansas and “Life in the Fast Lane” by Joe Walsh.  (I recently witnessed a woman at a local tavern who, on seeing the place had a jukebox, declared “I can play my music!”  She played “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey, “Freebird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd and “Hotel California” by the Eagles.)

Journey’s 2017 tour takes them to large cities such as Las Vegas and Dallas, but their meat-and-potatoes is small town America: Durant, Oklahoma, Tupelo, Mississippi, Greenville, South Carolina, Uncasville, Connecticut, Rochester, New York, Mount Pleasant, Michigan, Souix City, Iowa, Welch, Minnesota, Noblesville, Indiana, and so forth.

Their fan base in the Upper Midwest is large and intensely loyal.  During each performance the band scales their songlist through crowd pleasers such as “Anyway You Want It” and “Faithfully” before reaching the promised land: “Don’t Stop Believin”.  The song’s lyrics (some will win/some will lose) are brutally, numbingly hackneyed and are set against overwrought chords of empty profundity.

This overproduced reification of “arena rock” served brilliantly as background music for the roller skating sequence in Patty Jenkins’s Monster (2003), wherein Charlize Theron’s Aileen Wuornos declares it the best song of all time.  Jenkins’s masterpiece is an unflinching look at the economically strip-mined terrain occupied by those whose souls have been desicated from the emptiness of their lives and whose dreams have been bartered for crack, heroin and crystal meth.  “Don’t Stop Believing” acts as yet another corporate narcotic designed to cushion lives of unrelenting harshness.

Journey rolls triumphantly through Trump Country, harvesting cash (prices—depending on location—range from $40-$60 to $140-$160) and nourishing shopworn fantasies for those with little else to claim as their own, and at each stop the band encounters a landscape of increasing despair and decrepitude as the middle class slowly expires.  That Journey still packs arenas across the country by playing songs that can readily be accessed by tuning into any radio station or listened to when waiting in line at any Subway sandwich shop points to a devastating and broad-scale failure of the imagination.

Journey’s appearance in Moline was rewarded with a full-color photo of band mid-performance on an inside page of the local paper.  One concert goer told me Pineda—the band’s lead vocalist—only sang a few opening lines of “Don’t Stop Believing” before holding out his microphone to catch the voices of the crowd, who knew each lyric by heart.  This was the climax of the performance; what they’d all been waiting for.  The iWireless Center seats 9,200 and—once again—there was standing room only.  Those who made it inside considered themselves lucky.  They ranged from those approaching middle age to those on the cusp of senescence.  They’d scraped together enough to cover usurous ticket prices, endured endless delays in the parking lot and long lines at the gates of the venue itself, and now the moment had arrived when they could all collectively belt out Don’t Stop Believin” as if completing the final solemn steps of some ancient ritual promising spiritual fulfillment and lasting joy—until the lights came up and the audience streamed out into the cold night air.

More articles by:

Chris Welzenbach is a playwright (“Downsize”) who for many years was a member of Walkabout Theater in Chicago. He can be reached at incoming@chriswelzenbach.com

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

Weekend Edition
April 19, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What Will It Take For Trump to Get His Due?
Roy Eidelson
Is the American Psychological Association Addicted to Militarism and War?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Time is Blind, Man is Stupid
Joshua Frank
Top 20 Mueller Report “Findings”
Rob Urie
Why Russiagate Will Never Go Away
Paul Street
Stephen Moore Gets Something Right: It’s Capitalism vs. Democracy
Russell Mokhiber
Why Boeing and Its Executives Should be Prosecuted for Manslaughter
T.J. Coles
The Battle for Latin America: How the U.S. Helped Destroy the “Pink Tide”
Ron Jacobs
Ho Chi Minh City: Nguyen Thai Binh Street
Dean Baker
Fun Fictions in Economics
David Rosen
Trump’s One-Dimensional Gender Identity
Kenn Orphan
Notre Dame: We Have Always Belonged to Her
Robert Hunziker
The Blue Ocean Event and Collapsing Ecosystems
Theodore C. Van Alst, Jr.
Paddy Wagon
Brett Wilkins
Jimmy Carter: US ‘Most Warlike Nation in History of the World’
John W. Whitehead
From Jesus Christ to Julian Assange: When Dissidents Become Enemies of the State
Nick Pemberton
To Never Forget or Never Remember
Stephen Cooper
My Unforgettable College Stabbings
Louis Proyect
A Leftist Rejoinder to the “Capitalist Miracle”
Louisa Willcox
Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic and the Need for a New Approach to Managing Wildlife
Brian Cloughley
Britain Shakes a Futile Fist and Germany Behaves Sensibly
Jessicah Pierre
A Revolutionary Idea to Close the Racial Wealth Divide
George Burchett
Revolutionary Journalism
Dan Bacher
U.S. Senate Confirms Oil Lobbyist David Bernhardt as Interior Secretary
Nicky Reid
The Strange Success of Russiagate
Chris Gilbert
Defending Venezuela: Two Approaches
Todd Larsen
The Planetary Cost of Amazon’s Convenience
Kelly Martin
How the White House is Spinning Earth Day
Nino Pagliccia
Cuba and Venezuela: Killing Two Birds With a Stone
Matthew Stevenson
Pacific Odyssey: Guadalcanal and Bloody Ridge, Solomon Islands
David Kattenburg
Trudeau’s Long Winter
Gary Olson
A Few Comments on the recent PBS Series: Reconstruction: America After the Civil War
Ellen Lindeen
What Does it Mean to Teach Peace?
Adewale Maye and Eileen Appelbaum
Paid Family and Medical Leave: a Bargain Even Low-Wage Workers Can Afford
Ramzy Baroud
War Versus Peace: Israel Has Decided and So Should We
Ann Garrison
Vets for Peace to Barbara Lee: Support Manning and Assange
Thomas Knapp
The Mueller Report Changed my Mind on Term Limits
Jill Richardson
Why is Going Green So Hard? Because the System Isn’t
Mallika Khanna
The Greenwashing of Earth Day
Arshad Khan
Do the Harmless Pangolins Have to Become Extinct?
Paul Armentano
Pushing Marijuana Legalization Across the Finish Line
B. R. Gowani
Surreal Realities: Pelosi, Maneka Gandhi, Pompeo, Trump
Paul Buhle
Using the Law to Build a Socialist Society
David Yearsley
Call Saul
Elliot Sperber
Ecology Over Economy 
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail