A Perry-less Journey


July 20, 2001



Of the many bad developments in '80s rock, from cheesy synthesizers to stilted drum machines, no innovation was more annoying than the power ballad--the saccharine, plodding, hyper-romantic, lighters-in-the-air arena anthem. And Journey perfected it.

"Faithfully," "Open Arms," "Send Her My Love," "Wheel In the Sky"--I'm breaking into a cold sweat and violent convulsions just thinking about these tunes. But there's a generation of fans who will never forget pumpin' those sounds in their Camaros or shaking their mullets to them at the Class of '84's senior prom.

Propelled by a recent episode of VH1's "Behind the Music," Journey is back--albeit without its most recognizable member--touring behind a typically Journey-esque album titled "Arrival" (Beyond). In search of insight into the dreaded power ballad and wondering how the heck Journey can still be Journey without Steve Perry, I spoke to guitarist Neal Schon as he prepared to play two nights at Detroit's Pine Knob amphitheater.

Q.Are fans as receptive to the "Arrival" material as they are to the greatest hits?


A. It's different when we do "an evening with." Then we play close to 2 1/2 hours, and they're receptive to everything. This show that we're doing right now, it's turned out to be pretty much of a greatest hits tour. We're weaving some new stuff in there and sort of motoring through it and not giving people a chance to say they like it or don't.


Q. Does this feel like a nostalgia tour, or is this is a vibrant, artistic unit that's moving forward?


A. This band has always been an excellent band live, and we jam. That's basically why people come to see us. The record is the record, but live, this band kicks major [butt]. We bring a lot to the table entertainment-wise and as musicians. Journey definitely has a built-in audience, a very loyal audience, so loyal that they're still there even with the new lineup.


Q. You must be sick of this question, but everyone wants to know: How can it be Journey without Steve Perry?


A. That's pretty much a has-been thing. We've been touring now for three years with this configuration.


Q. Well, your new singer Steve Augeri sounds an awful lot like that other Steve. Did you intentionally look for that?


A. We talked about it. We could have done the route like Van Halen did with Sammy Hagar, and you basically just start brand new and you don't play the older songs and you play all the new stuff. But we felt that our audience wants to hear those classic Journey songs. We're a classic-rock band. That's what we've been classified as, that's what radio plays us as, and we knew we had to play our older material. So definitely we wanted someone who could pull it off, but also someone we could go in some new directions with. And the audiences have really accepted Steve Augeri--I read the reviews, the ones the fans write, and also what's printed in the papers by the critics.


Q. Critics have generally not been kind to Journey.


A. That's what's been so freaky: Since we changed this lineup, we've gotten some of the best reviews we've ever gotten. I'm expecting the worst, and all of a sudden we're getting great reviews.

People are accepting Steve Augeri. If anyone says he's just a clone of Steve Perry, that's really not fair to him, because he hasn't had a long enough time in the band to show his true colors. A lot of the stuff that we wrote that did not make it onto this record did not sound like Steve Perry; it was more Sam Cooke than anything. A lot of the stuff that people automatically assume was Steve Perry . . . it's Sam Cooke. If you listen to a Sam Cooke record, you're gonna hear a whole hell of a lot of Steve Perry licks, especially a song like "Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'."


Q. What is it about power ballads?


A. I don't know. I tend to write different kinds of power ballads. [Keyboardist] Jonathan [Cain] is the one that will write the romantic love songs, then I put my guitar on and make it a little bit heavier. On this new record, I wrote this song with my dad, "Livin' to Do," and the lyrical content is about my dad passing away and how if you don't have problems in your life and you have good health, there's no reason that you should not go out there and live your life to the fullest every day, because you don't know when it could be taken away from you. We started playing this song about a week ago, and people are just going nuts for it.


Q. It's been my experience when talking to bands who've been portrayed on "Behind the Music" that there are invariably one or two big things that are completely wrong, are missed, or are overemphasized. What did they screw up with Journey?


A. Well, the whole story is just not there. I think in any hour show like that it's impossible. We could have easily been a two-hour show and a very interesting show. The thing I disliked about it the most was the fact that it was so much around Steve Perry and his problems with his mom, and I mean, my father just passed away of cancer too, and he actually wrote for the band and arranged strings for the band. But because Steve's mom was the thing that sort of made him fold and not able to tour, they talk about that while they don't talk at all about people like [drummers] Steve Smith or Aynsley Dunbar, who are just amazing musicians.

I'm glad that it came out, because it did so well, and it's good for us right now, but it was definitely very candy-coated. Jonathan, myself and [bassist] Ross [Valory] were pretty much tied to a legal contract that we had done with Perry where there's certain things that we could not even talk about, and I was very frustrated about that. I thought that they would definitely go for more controversy, because it was definitely there.

* * *

Out of the arenas and far, far away from the power ballads are two other gigs of note in the coming days. California swing chanteuse and blues belter


*Candye Kane will perform at 5:30 Sunday afternoon as part of the 33rd annual Sheffield Garden Walk at Webster and Sheffield (donation, $5). And Wino, a.k.a. Scott Weinrich, the godfather of stoner rock, is finally coming to Chicago with his band


*Spirit Caravan.

A favorite whenever she performs at Fitzgerald's in Berwyn, the inimitable Ms. Kane is a self-proclaimed "former porn star, stripper, blues diva, fat activist, feminist, bisexual Tupperware lady" with a warm and winning sense of humor and a powerhouse voice. After a disappointing stint on Sire, she's back with her Rounder debut "The Toughest Girl in the World," and it's almost as good as 1997's tour de force, "Diva La Grande." Both celebrate an extra-large lust for life with anthems such as "You Need a Great Big Woman" and "All You Can Eat (and You Can Eat It All Night Long)."

As unforgettable in his own way as Kane is in hers, Wino and his bandmates are part of a strong bill at the Double Door on Thursday that also includes


Altamont, the side project fronted by Melvins drummer Dale Crover. (Showtime: 9:30; cover: $8.) Black Sabbath-derived metallic/psychedelic stomp 'n' grind simply doesn't get much better than Spirit Caravan's "Elusive Truth," released last month on Tolotta Records. And as is often the case with the stoner-rock genre, the group is even more potent live on stage.