Steve Perry, one of the most elusive frontmen in rock, hasn't performed with Journey since 1991, or performed solo concerts since 1995. But don't stop believin', Perry fans. The rock icon finally returned to the stage Sunday night… to join indie-rock band the Eels at the 1,000-capacity Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, Minn.
Perry showed up at first to sing the Eels' 2000 cult hit "It's a Motherf---er," his voice instantly recognizable and sounding surprisingly strong considering his well-publicized health problems (ongoing arthritis, hip-replacement surgery in 1998, two melanoma-removal surgeries in 2013). Joked Eels leader Mark Everett upon hearing the Fitzgerald audience's thunderous response: "They don't applaud like that for me! I guess I gotta disappear for 25 years!"
So sometimes you go to an @THE_EELS show and Steve Perry shows up and plays Lovin' Touchin' Squeezin' and it's the best thing ever.— Ali Lozoff (@AliLozoff) May 26, 2014
Former Journey frontman Steve Perry joins the Eels onstage for a surprise encore at the Fitzgerald Theater moments ago. Who's Crying Now?— Jake Rudh (@JakeRudh) May 26, 2014
Perry explained to the bewildered and elated crowd: "I love that song… When I first met [Everett], I said someday I wanted to sing that song. And tonight is the first time I've ever sang it."
It's possible that Perry related to the profanity-laden but poignant tune due to its subject matter. Many of Everett's compositions have been inspired by tragedies in his family, including his mother's death from cancer; Perry lost his girlfriend to cancer in December 2012. Lyrics to the sad ballad include: "It's a motherf---er/Getting through a Sunday/Talking to the walls/Just me again/But I won't ever be the same."
After covering the Eels song Sunday, Perry joked, "I don’t know why the Eels don't do my music," to which Everett quipped back, "We were just waiting for you!" The band and Perry then thrillingly launched into the Journey classics "Open Arms" and "Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'," the latter turning into a joyous crowd singalong.
(WARNING: The video below contains profanity)
While the time for a Journey comeback has seemed ripe for a while now, especially given the ubiquity of "Don't Stop Believin'" in pop culture (Glee, Sopranos, American Idol, Rock of Ages, etc.), and rumors of a Journey reunion circulated not too long ago, it still doesn't seem in the cards. Journey's Neal Schon told Billboard earlier this month that such rumors were untrue.
However, Perry's return to the spotlight this week may indicate that he is finally ready to follow up his solo sophomore effort, 1994’s For the Love of Strange Medicine. Back in 2010, Perry told Classic Rock magazine that he had more than 50 original compositions waiting to be recorded in his home studio in Del Mar, Calif., although the following year he admitted to the Associated Press that his perfectionism was making him stall, saying: "I'm so hard on myself. I play these sketches in my computer for friends and they say, 'Gee whiz, the vocal's beautiful.' I hear, 'It needs to be better.'"
It's possible that Perry's long-awaited solo comeback may feature another alt-rock band besides the Eels: Late last year, Rolling Stone reported that he was working with SoCal rap-rockers AWOL Nation. Perhaps Perry won't remain AWOL for long, so watch this space.