When Steve Perry Played His Last Full Show With Journey
Journey were partway through a U.S. tour when they performed on Feb. 1, 1987 at the Sullivan Sports Arena in Anchorage. So it may even have come to a surprise to them that it was the last show they’d ever play with singer Steve Perry.
When they completed their performance of “Faithfully” that night, they closed the book on their rise to fame. And even though there would be one more album with Perry, and a 10-minute guest appearance at an all-star concert in 1991, it was the last time he led them through a full performance.
Tensions had been simmering between Perry and guitarist Neal Schon. Following the release of three definitive classic-rock albums – Escape, Frontiers and Raised on Radio – Journey were undeniably massive. But Perry dismissed bassist Ross Valory and drummer Steve Smith before the recording of 1986’s Raised on Radio, and all was still not well.
The singer, who was also producing the album, later said he was “toast” as he dealt with the illness and then death of his mother during sessions. That had led to the breakdown in relations that forced his hand at Anchorage. He refused to continue to the tour, the following shows were canceled and the band went on hiatus.
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Perry had another argument in his favor: His 1984 solo album, Street Talk, had won him even more personal acclaim, and it could be argued that he didn’t need Journey anymore. The presence of his solo tracks “Strung Out” and “Oh Sherrie” on the Raised on Radio tour set list suggested he felt he was in a strong bargaining position and that his colleagues accepted that.
When the classic lineup regrouped for 1996’s Trial by Fire, Perry suffered a hip injury that prevented them from touring for 18 months because he didn’t want to undergo the surgery he required. With the clock ticking, the group issued an ultimatum: Have the procedure or be fired. Perry chose the latter option, saying that he felt unduly pressured by his colleagues’ approach, and insisting he’d never work with them again – although he joined them for an award ceremony on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2005.
Journey continued with Steve Augeri and later Jeff Scott Soto, before hiring singer Arnel Pineda in 2007. Perry dropped off the radar for a long time, before making a well-received comeback – without his former bandmates.
So, for now, it seems that the 21-song show in Anchorage was the last time the Voice would perform a full-length show with the band he helped lift into the stratosphere. As Perry noted in 2014, “I’m not the person I was 30 years ago. That person is gone."
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