Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Is 'Winds of March' Steve Perry's best live performance?

This article in Society of Rock "We Found Steve Perry's Greatest Performance Ever And It Will Stop Your Heart," argues that the 1978 Chicago PBS Soundstage live Winds of March is Steve Perry's best live performance. Geez, I can't single out any one performance in this artist's body of work as "greatest." From the article:
"Although it is bold to claim which of Steve Perry’s amazing live performances are the best, we would have to argue that his insanely pristine vocals and range in the 1978 Chicago “Winds Of March” is it.

...From Journey’s fourth album, Infinity, “Winds Of March” proves to be one of the sweetest soft rock songs in existence about a parent experiencing the heart wrenching loss of a child. "

Although there are hundreds of performances to choose from, this happens to be our favorite and most touching vision of the great Steve Perry.
I classify Steve Perry in three distinct vocal periods/quality: this is the pristine countertenor period, the 80s arena rock tenor heyday, and the very tour-damaged, dirt-in-the-vox, but talented latter period in late 80s to 1996. I love each period because he learned to adapt as his voice changed, but what remained constant is his ear for melody, tonal excellence, convincing emotion, judicious use of melisma, a base rooted in Sam Cooke, and that vibrato.

I agree that this is an incredible example of his range, power, clarity, and emotive qualities. It almost makes you weep listening to the disciplined note production, the controlled vibrato, the ease with which he delivers an extremely difficult song. It is beautiful to behold.

This song is a Mount Everest for any tribute singer. It's so way up there, unearthly, practically unachievable. Even Perry stopped performing it after it was effectively replaced by Mother/Father as the vocal show stopper in 1981.

People need to remember that most of the recorded official (and unofficial on YouTube and boots) show SP at his best. As he is a human being, his gift wasn't "on" every night. You can find some YouTubes where he's dodging notes, doing brilliant substitutions but staying faithful to the song's intent and emotion. The hallmark of a great vocalist is one who learns how to work with the tools in his vocal toolbox on any given night on the fly.

That's where I have to give props to tribute singers like my bud (and colleague) Jeff Salado, of Journey Revisited. All of these singers attempt to emulate Steve Perry at his BEST consistently night after night in front of casual fans of Journey to die-hards like myself. Keeping the Perry era of live performance authentic is a tall order indeed. The demand is there to hear these great compositions performed live with fidelity to original sound.

Check out discussion on this topic in two Facebook groups:

Panda (Pam Spaulding)
Digital Presence - Team JR

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