Former Journey frontman Steve Perry was called “The Voice” for a reason, something to which I, as someone who has attempted “Oh Sherrie” many times in the shower, can attest.
So naturally, finding someone who can handle the vocal gymnastics necessary to perform the ’70s rock group’s greatest hits wasn’t the easiest task. The documentary Don’t Stop Believin': Everyman’s Journey—which premiered last night at the Tribeca Film Festival—tracks the unlikely story of Arnel Pineda, a Filipino singer in a Journey cover band who, through the grace of YouTube and a golden throat made for belting suburban anthems like “Separate Ways” and “Anyway You Want It,” somehow became the real thing when guitarist Neil Schon saw a video clip of him performing. Since then, Pineda and the band have released two albums, sold out numerous concerts, and are currently preparing for a national tour this summer.
“I think you can see in the movie that I was nervous all the time,” says Pineda, who in conversation tends to come off as humble as his beginnings as an orphan in the Philippines. “Filling the shoes of Steve Perry—that’s pretty much impossible. He’s still ‘The Voice.’ I am just this guy the other boys chose to continue the legacy.” Even if that’s true, the story of how he went from performing in front of a handful of bar patrons in Manila to tens of thousands of classic rock fans is still pretty impressive.
Pineda speaks with an accent — but once he starts singing, his voice transforms into an uncanny replica of Perry’s distinctive tones. But this doesn’t come easily. In fact, Pineda has been performing a number of local gigs in the Philippines, stretching his vocal cords in preparation for the upcoming tour. “You have to!” he says. “I can’t get complacent about it. Every time we’re up there, people expect to hear the same sound they heard when they first fell in love with the band all those years ago.”