Earlier this week, Journey frontman Steve Perry surprised the world by coming out of retirement for the first time in nearly 20 years to deliver a three-song performance with the rock band Eels in St. Paul, Minn. Now the Eels’ frontman, E, has explained the story behind Perry stepping back up to the mic in an interview with Stereogum.
E explains in a Q&A that Perry’s surprise performance was years in the making. Having befriended the Journey singer years ago (Steve is a big fan of the group’s), Perry became an honorary member of the band and began showing up to the band’s tour rehearsals.
“He started showing up unannounced to our tour rehearsals every year. He would just sit there and watch us. And then 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. He would just laugh,” E tells Stereogum, adding that Perry did in fact take the bait about three or four years ago and sang a Journey song for the first time in over 10 years.
“It sent shivers down my spine, and I instantly gained an appreciation for his voice and Journey, something that I never got before,” said E. “And now when I hear Journey on the radio, I turn it up.”
Fast forward to present day, and Perry is still sitting in on Eels rehearsals like he always does, but E says that at their most recent rehearsals for their tour that kicked off mid-May, it was different from the years past.
“He showed up to our tour rehearsals like he always does, but on the second day he came in carrying his own microphone that he brought with him…And he started talking about [singing] on stage,” E explained. “And then he actually came out to St. Paul — and I don’t know why he chose St. Paul. Only he could tell you that.”
He continues saying that he didn’t actually believe Perry would sing until he stepped foot on stage and heard that signature voice.
“And it was such a beautiful moment. Again, it sent chills down my spine just to be there with him in his element doing what he was made to do,” he said. “And as my friend, it felt good to see him feeling so good about that.”
Perry sang three songs with the group, including two Journey classics – “Open Arms” and “Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin’” – all of which Perry asked to sing.
Though Perry finally made it back on stage after all these years, even E doesn’t know if he plans on joining the band for future shows.
“I have no idea,” E said. “Steve does what Steve does.”
All we have to say is, don’t stop believin’.
You can read the entire Q&A on Stereogum.