Steve Perry emerged from two decades of seclusion in August with new single “No Erasin'” off his upcoming album Traces. It was a rather stunning development for Journey fans that had largely given up on ever hearing him sing again, especially after he refused to perform with his old group when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year. But in new interviews, Perry revealed that after losing his girlfriend Kellie Nash to cancer in 2012, he decided it was time to face the world again.
Perry said he’s considering promoting Traces with a solo tour, but don’t expect to see him back onstage with Journey. They’ve been doing just fine without him ever since Arnel Pineda became their new singer 10 years ago and have even played stadiums this summer on their co-headlining tour with Def Leppard. They exclusively play songs from the Perry era of the group, and Pineda sounds almost exactly like his predecessor did in 1983. Most audiences are quite happy to sing along with their favorite hits and don’t really care if the original guy isn’t actually on the stage.
Forty years ago, however, Perry was a crucial part of Journey’s success. The group began in 1973 as an offshoot of Santana with guitarist Neal Schon and keyboardist/singer Gregg Rolie, but their first three albums failed to find a mass audience and they faced getting dropped from their record label. Steve Perry was brought into the group to help them develop a more commercial sound, beginning with 1978’s Infinity. The gambit worked immediately as lead single “Wheel in the Sky” reached Number 57 on the Hot 100. Here’s video of them playing their first hit song on The Midnight Special in February 1978, which was the first time many in America saw the group play with Perry.
If Perry decides to tour in support of Traces, Journey will face some competition on the road. Fans have had plenty of chances to see Journey minus Perry play the hits, but Perry minus Journey hasn’t done any sort of tour since a brief one in 1995 to support his solo album For the Love of Strange Medicine. The tour generated very little interest since Journey were aggressively uncool in the Lollapalooza era, but things have changed quite a bit since then. He hasn’t sang “Wheel in the Sky” in over 23 years, but should he decide to go out and do it again he’ll probably be shocked by how many people are willing to pay big bucks to hear it.