Former Journey vocalist Steve Perry's recent performance at an Eels concert, after a 19-year absence from the stage, was long in the works, according to Eels frontman E. The "Separate Ways" singer began attending Eels concerts about a decade ago, E told Stereogum, asking to meet E, but the Eels singer demurred for years as he was not a Journey fan. After a director friend encouraged their friendship, E learned that "Steve's the greatest guy" and invited him to the group's "weekly Sunday croquet matches." With time, "he started showing up unannounced to our tour rehearsals every year."
"Slowly over the years, guys in the band would try to bait him by playing a Journey song hoping he would grab the microphone and start singing, but he never would," E said. "One tour rehearsal probably three or four years ago, it happened, where he surprised us all and grabbed the microphone. And for the first time in 18 years or something, he started singing a Journey song. And it sent shivers down my spine, and I instantly gained an appreciation for his voice and Journey, something that I never got before. And now when I hear Journey on the radio, I turn it up."
As had become the norm, Perry showed up at the most recent Eels tour rehearsals but, on the second day, brought his own microphone. Then he talked about wanting to sing onstage.
About a week into the group's tour, which began in Phoenix in mid-May, Perry surprised the band in St. Paul, Minnesota. "I don't know why he chose St. Paul," E said. "Only he could tell you that." And the group played a three-song set with Perry, including Eels' "It'a a Motherfucker" and Journey's "Open Arms" and "Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'," all songs, incidentally, that Perry asked to do.
"It was such a beautiful moment," E told Stereogum. "Again, it sent chills down my spine just to be there with him in his element doing what he was made to do. And as my friend, it felt good to see him feeling so good about that."
Will Perry be joining Eels again for any upcoming shows? "I have no idea," E said. "Steve does what Steve does."
Perry retired from music after recording two solo albums and Journey's 1996 album Trial by Fire, citing arthritis and a bad hip as reasons. But as with Eels, Perry has been befriending other musicians in recent years and talking about making music. AWOLNATION frontman Aaron Bruno told Rolling Stone last year that the sometime Journey singer could appear on their next album. "He asked for my number," Bruno said. "He reached out to me."