A new chapter of the Journey saga began Thursday night when they played Chicago’s Aragon Ballroom. It marked the return of drummer Deen Castronovo after a six year absence, the debut of new drummer Narada Michael Walden, and new keyboardist/backup singer Jason Derlatka. Bassist Randy Jackson had to miss the show due to back surgery, so Marco Mendoza filled in for him. Journey were also joined by classic-era members Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain along with longtime vocalist Arnel Pineda.

The set was significantly longer than their typical shows in recent years, spotlighting big hits like “Open Arms,” “Faithfully” and “Separate Ways” along with long-neglected deep cuts like “Suzanne,” “Just The Same Way” and “Feeling That Way.” Above is a fan-shot video of an epic “Wheel In The Sky” that closed out the first set.

This is the first show that Journey have played since parting ways with bassist Ross Valory and drummer Steve Smith following a legal dispute over the band’s trademark. They announced the addition of Walden and Jackson to the lineup last year, but Castronovo’s return was announced just a couple of days before the Aragon gig. “Deen is back,” Schon wrote to fans on Facebook. “We are double (2) drummers now with Narada.”

When Rolling Stone spoke to Schon earlier this year, the guitarist explained that the band’s new lineup has given them a renewed sense of purpose. “We aren’t afraid to go to new places,” he said. “It’s easy to stay safe and write where we have always been. We have a bit of that so we don’t lose everyone, but at the same token, this is a new chapter of Journey. I want to go where we have not gone before.”

Journey are also working on their first album of new material since 2011’s Eclipse. They hope to release it later this year, and last month they shared the new song “The Way We Used To Be.” The band members recorded their parts in separate studios all across the globe because of the pandemic.

The Aragon Ballroom show was a warmup gig for Journey’s set at Lollapalooza Saturday night. They will then play Atlantic City on August 20th followed by two shows in the New York City area, both on 21st. The first is the Central Park Homecoming Concert where they will share the stage with Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, and many other big names. Then then will travel by helicopter to Jones Beach in Long Island for the Tunnel to Towers Foundation’s Never Forget Concert.

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