Monday, May 26, 2014

Steve Perry sings live again -- and, as expected, it stirs up angst in the Journey/SP fan world

As a long-time fan who respects all eras of the band -- for me it's about the music -- it was gratifying to see former front man Steve Perry at the mic actually singing at length in public. It happened last night at an Eels concert in St. Paul, MN. He sang the band's song "It's a Motherf*cker", then went into a stepped-down version of Open Arms and Lovin', Touchin', Squeezing. It was wonderful to see him comfortable at the mic, and more important for the occasion --seeing an audience appreciating him.

That golden voice was completely pummeled by an insane touring schedule back in the day that would roast anyone's vocal cords. Fans that followed his vocal progression over the years can mark that around 1983 or so, his voice changed radically, the rasp that most fans of the Perry-Schon-Cain era know and love emerged. While it has character, that represented damage to his cords. He had an unreal, bell-clear countertenor back in the Infinity-Departure-Evolution era. That's not what we heard by the time he recorded Trial By Fire in 1996. His range was reduced, the rasp more pronounced, but he was still able to produced tracks that had emotional depth, soul, and amazing lyrical interpretation.

What I do hope this wonderful, heartfelt live performance will do is cease the ridiculous "reunite with Journey" mantra by some delusional fans that want him to hit the road again with the band. Steve Perry cannot sustain the trauma on those cords over a tour, nor would he satisfy the casual fans who want to hear the 80s hits as he performed them then. Just can the fantasy, folks.

I also hope this stops the incessant criticism that his voice is "gone" -- no, it isn't, it's what about I expected to hear. The grand thing is that he did it - getting over the fear of performing live, being judged unfairly about the "dirt" in his voice, the reduced range, etc. by people expecting SP pipes from 1978.

It didn't take long for comments on social media to get into all of that mess.

I am thankful that he is stepping out so he can see how most of us are content to hear him as is -- his vocal styling is completely intact - and shower him with the gratitude he deserves (and has feared wasn't out there). I feel sorry that for some he has to compete with the heights of his gift from decades ago.


And yes, I'm going to a Journey concert on Thursday in Raleigh -- with frontman Arnel Pineda singing those Perry-era hits and beyond (after all, he's now recorded two albums of original material with the band!). He's not in any competition with Steve Perry, nor should he be placed in that awful position by fans, nor should his fans find Steve Perry's recent appearance as some sort of threat to Arnel's existence with the band. I find these internecine wars juvenile, hurtful and unnecessary. Why can't folks enjoy the music, and come back to the real world.

I would be perfectly happy to see Steve Perry do a couple of "Evenings With" concerts, filmed with an audience (bucket list item - to be there!) in Storytellers style. He doesn't even have to sing any Journey tunes. He's apparently got plenty of original material written and in demo form. It would be fantastic for him to do some R&B, blues stuff - the one genre he excels at that the current iteration of Journey unfortunately steers clear of in favor of the Dirty Dozen + a couple of deeper cuts.


UPDATE: additional thoughts that I shared in abbreviated form on Facebook after more surfing around to see more reactions.

I've been in -- and lurked in -- a variety of fan forums and comments sections of news articles about the band over the years. It's way too easy to get sucked into the vortex of insanity -- 1) "no SP/no Journey/bring him back to the group;" 2) SP's voice is shot; 3) AP is better than SP; 4) JRNY= SA/JSS/AP = Karaoke. Or other subset groups that will never meet the other half way, and worse, take it out on fellow fans on a personal level.

Musical tastes are a highly personal area, so I get the passion surrounding it, but I think some folks find it hard to engage without taking different opinions personally.

Coming from a political blogging (and moderating) background, I've developed a thick skin from that sparring (try fending off death threats, social condemnation, and threats to your day job; that will harden you fast), so it still surprises me how quickly that conversations about my favorite band get hot and seemingly personal, when the temperature doesn't seem hot enough to warrant it. But they can and do at times.

I'm not sure why these camps can spiral out of control, but moderating discussions where there are a range of firmly-held opinions, no matter the topic, is a challenge. Every word choice gets amplified, the _perceived_ power differential between commenters and the moderator is always an issue in trying to keep everyone feeling welcome.

For instance, the terms of service on PHB was several pages long, and we had pretty firm moderation that required a good deal of time by my admin contributors, but it was all in the name of 1) keeping conversations civil, and 2) making it possible to have an environment where it felt safe to navigate politically sensitive topics with one another.

* A Journey fan's dream deep cuts setlist -- that means no DSB, peeps
* Steve Perry back on stage, enjoying himself (but what a tease!)

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