You might never have made it to Woodstock or have seen The Beatles in concert, but a tribute band can carry you back in time to relive what you never experienced in the first place.
Gulf Theater at the Military Heritage Museum has a full roster of tributes this season.
The first tribute of many in 2021 is Never Stop Believin’ — A Tribute to Journey. The four-man show takes you right back to Journey of the 1979/1980 “Evolution” and “Departure” albums, then time-travels to the mid-1980s’ Escape/Frontiers tours, after a mid-show costume change.
The Gulf Theater audience will hear memorable hits like “Anyway You Want It,” “Who’s Cryin’ Now,” “Wheel in the Sky,” “Open Arms,” “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’,” “Faithfully,” “Lights” and, of course, “Don’t Stop Believin’.”
The group’s music director, Gary Bivona, remembered, “At first I wanted to be like Led Zeppelin, but when I heard the beautiful songs that Journey’s new piano player Jonathan Cain did in the 1980s — ‘Don’t Stop Believin,’ ‘Open Arms,’ ‘Faithfully’ — I lost it.
“I said to myself: That’s the kind of music I want to play, rock music by a classical pianist. When I answered an ad for a Journey tribute audition in 2008, there were 166 people trying out. But I was meant to be in it.
“I’ve always loved Journey, and so do our drummer and guitarist.”
Today, their performances start out with an intro that slowly morphs the original 1970s Journey members into their Never Stop Believin’ counterparts.
The group is fronted by the lead vocals and presence of Billy D. Lindley, who looks and sounds just like Journey’s Steve Perry.
“He’s a mimic who can sound like anybody,” said Bivona. “When you do a tribute like ours, every single note has to be absolutely right.”
Getting the rest of the act absolutely right are Bivona on keyboards and vocals, Clint Ettore on guitar and vocals, and Jerry O’Malley on drums and vocals.
Based in Boca Raton, Never Stop Believin’ has brought audiences the precise look, sound and feel of 1970s/1980s Journey to Central America, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, New York, Texas and Virginia Beach.
The band has rocked venues from Meyer Amphitheater and Hollywood ArtsPark at Young Circle to Roger Dean Stadium and Daytona Beach Bandshell.
Bivona said, “When we do Daytona Beach, we get 10,000 every year. It’s crazy. But Journey sold 120 million records, so there are fans out there.”
Though the band had 48 gigs and two cruises COVID-cancel in 2020, they normally do 65 gigs a year, 50 of them for a loyal following between Naples and Tampa, many at Gulf Coast dinner theaters the size of Gulf Theater.
Bivona explained, “In a dinner theater, you can’t play really hard, but you still have to sound like Journey. We can adjust to the size of a venue. A lot of musicians can’t do that.”
Gulf Theater fog-sanitizes and wipes down door handles, railings and armrests before and after each show. Staff and guests (but not artists) are required to wear masks in the building and throughout the performance. Hand sanitizer and temperature checks at the door.