Neal Schon has had an emotional week and the legendary guitar player is still on a high after Journey’s long-awaited induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame more than 40 years after he formed the band. But while Journey fans were hoping for former lead singer Steve Perry to take the stage to perform with his long-estranged bandmates, Schon, who co-founded the Bay Area-based rock band back in 1973, told Rolling Stone he completely understands why Perry declined to sing at the ceremony.
While rumors were swirling on the day of the Rock Hall induction that Steve would join Neal Schon and the band for at least one song, Neal said his team knew nothing about it. Neal said Steve’s management made a statement saying the singer was just showing up to accept the award,” so that’s what he expected to happen.
Schon revealed that before the band’s emotional onstage reunion to accept the Rock Hall honors, he met with Perry privately backstage for about 15 minutes. Schon said he told his ex-bandmate, “‘Hey man, I really miss you.'”
“There was very good eye contact,” Schon told Rolling Stone.
“It was real. It wasn’t just things being said because of the ceremony and to keep things cool. He said, ‘Coffee is way overdue for us.’ I went, ‘Let’s do it. Please.'”
Neal added that knowing how emotional Perry was feeling, “it’s understandable to me that he wouldn’t want to sing.” Schon also revealed that he was so overcome by emotion after Perry hugged him onstage that he was unable to read the speech he had prepared for the Rock Hall induction.
Neal later released the entire transcript of his unread speech to Guitar Player, explaining that he was too choked up to deliver the spiel during the ceremony because there were so many emotions. So Schon, of all people, can understand why Steve was unable to gather his composure in order to sing.
“It was just highly emotional,” Neal explained to Rolling Stone. “He was tearing up. I was definitely tearing up. I had tears running down my eyes. I was trying to keep my composure on the stage for that event, but it was something that was too strong.”
Neal downplayed talk that Steve didn’t want to sing because of the pressure to live up to the voice he had during Journey’s heyday 30 years ago. Back in the day, Perry easily hit the high notes on popular Journey songs like “Any Way You Want it” and “Open Arms,” and was famously dubbed “The Voice.” And decades later, Schon says he would still be The Voice.
“Seriously, we can play in any key he wanted to play,” Neal said.
“I was aware, like everyone else was, that he went out a couple of years ago and played with the Eels. I noticed that the keys were lower, but there’s nothing wrong with that. It still sounded like him, very soulful. He’s got a very recognizable voice. Even when he was talking I was like, ‘That’s the voice.”
While Schon says Journey could have played any way that was needed to accommodate Steve’s range, the singer has been vocal about how he feels about hearing himself sing.
“Sometimes, when I hear myself sing, I sound like Steve Perry, and sometimes that has a lot of memories attached to it,” he once told GQ. “My own voice is sometimes difficult to hear because it reminds me of so much.”
“This love-hate relationship that I have with my voice is a tumultuous thing,” Perry told the Hollywood Reporter. “You love music, but it’s a tough relationship.”
[Featured Image by Mike Coppola/Getty Images]