Just as you were having your first encounter with Neal Schon you were called off to have dinner with the Journey road crew. It was like waking up in the middle of a great dream! But unlike dreams, this story continues - right where if left off!
The dinner area is cleared out and the guys in the band have headed back to their dressing rooms to get ready for the show. The backstage area has become packed with action, so instead of getting in the way, you go out to the front of the arena to see how the merchandise booths are doing. There are stands where you can get information on the Journey fan club (which is great because being a Journey Force member enables you to get the best seats at all Journey concerts and runs exclusive contests to meet the band!) and there are stands where you can buy Journey shirts, jerseys and anything else you can imagine!
Bryan Adams has just taken the stage, but instead of taking your seat you take up the offer to watch the show from the lighting booth. It's pretty exciting to see it from this angle since you can also view the audience, read the rundown of songs the band's going to play that night, and see how the lighting system is coordinated with the songs.
But the best part is watching the now erected video screen! Not only can you see the action on stage, but to open the show the camera is packed backstage in the band's dressing room.
First you see the backs of Neal and Ross, then Steve Perry, who turns and looks directly into the camera, then Jon and Steve Smith. They're running from the dressing room down a long corridor. The next thing you know they're on stage in front of you playing "Separate Ways"! By the middle of the show, you wander over to the side of the stageyour pass allows you to watch the show from there, and you can't imagine a bigger thrill than this!
Not only can you feel the energy of the whole crowd, but you are so close to the band that you can see the color of Steve Perry's eyes (which can change from brown to green to dark blue, depending on his surroundings). You can see Ross joking around with Jon and Smitty (that's what the family occasionally calls Steve Smith) while he's playing his bass guitar, but most of all you can feel the camaraderie and friendship between the five guys on stage.
After a full two hours the concert's over, but not the evening! As the guys leave the stage after their third encore, you're escorted back to the hospitality room where there's as much excitement as during the concert. Steve Smith enters with his 15-month-old son Ian. Neal strolls in and engages in a conversation with some guys in the crew.
Then Jon enters dressed in black slacks, a light shirt and black blazer with rolled up sleeves. He introduces himself explaining that he noticed you during the sound check but didn't have a chance to say hello. Once you let him know you're there representing BOP magazine, Jon quickly starts asking questions about the magazine's format and encouragingly gives his view on what the fans might like to see and read. Of course, the best thing is an interview, and Jon generously offers his time to you for one.
The party's over in about an hour since it's been a long day, and everyone heads back to the hotel. That's where Journey's family really starts to talk. You find out that Steve Perry is a fairly private person. He's very friendly, loves to laugh and writes a lot of songs on the road. Ross is a practical joker of the group - it's hard to talk to him for more than two minutes without breaking out in laughter. Smitty is very family oriented, Jon is described as a great dresser and the perfect "gentleman" who is always the first to stand when a lady walks into the room, and Neal is described as having the liveliest personality of the bunch.
Since the roadies don't have to set up, the next morning is pretty relaxed. Everyone wanders into the hotel dining room in groups of two or three, but at noon people start heading over to the stadium to get things in motion for the show that night. Not too much has to be done except for the sound check.
When you least expect it, Steve Perry comes bopping in! He's been driving around Denver checking out the city and stops in to see how things are progressing at the stadium.
The early afternoon sound check gets under way, and now the place really starts to cook. Smitty arrives first. He's got a new set of drums and wants to check them out before the show. As he's playing, someone from the sound board lets him know his floor tom has too many overtones. Steve and his drum technician start tuning the drum to raise the pitch. It takes a good half hour before the set sounds just right, and Smitty starts in on a jazzy number. Your own, personal concert plus an education in musical terminology from one of the best musicians aroundwho could ask for more?
Jon and Neal arrive at the same time and come over to say hi. After Neal tells you about their racquetball game that morning, he assures you that today's interviews are still on. But when they leave the stage they disappear! You finally ask their road manager, Steve Clark, what the story is. "They were sent off to do a radio interview," he tells you. You explain that you'd set up the same time to do your interviews, and Steve, in turn, lets you know you shouldn't worry! He'll arrange for your time. Just sit tight. But the guys are set to go on stage in two hours and time is getting tight!
You run backstage to grab a bite to eat before the second night's show and you remember that you still haven't talked to Neal or Jon. Noticing the worried look on your face, Steve Clark again assures you you'll have the chance to really sit down and talk. Since you don't want to be a bother, you take your seat (which must be the best seat in the house, front row, side of the stage).
As soon as Bryan Adams and his band hit the stage to open the Journey show, someone comes running up to you yelling, "Hurry! Jon is ready for you now!" As you're being rushed backstage, you're thinking' "Ready for me now? Half an hour before he's supposed to go on stage?" It seems impossible when all of a sudden Jon walks in, composed and ready to talk! You start your interview forgetting that in 20 minutes you'll be watching him play before 16,000 people. Instead, you're busy discovering the Jon Cain is an honest, highly intelligent, down-to-earth guy who talks with ease about his long awaited success, his happiness over his wife's (singer Tane Cain) career, his middle class childhood and the fact that he's now writing better songs than he ever has before.
As you're finishing your talk with Jon, Neal comes into the tuning room and starts to limber up for the show by working out on a rowing machine. You're then assured that he's "all yours" after the show.
The guys are about to step on stage, and as you sit back in your seat to enjoy the concert, you think back about everyone you've met. Watching the guys on state is strange now that you know them as individuals rather than performers you admire from afar. You start watching for little things - like when Neal sings "No More Lies" from his Schon & Hammer album you think about how earlier that day he revealed to you he still isn't quite comfortable singing and playing at the same time - it doesn't come as naturally to him as he'd like. No one in the audience would ever suspect it!
Watching Steve Perry is a thrill in itself. Isn't it amazing how he can handle 16,000 people with such ease? They don't know that just minutes before he was calmly sitting backstage with the other Journey members. Now he's all energy, working the audience, getting them to sing along, running from side-to-side and up the ramp which allows him to include the audience seated behind the stage.
But the biggest thrill is during the encore. You'd sent three dozen carnations to the dressing room before the show to wish the guys good luck and thank them for everything. Suddenly, Neal comes racing out from behind the stage with the flowers in his arms and throws them to the audience to thank them for coming to the show!
After the show it's back to the hospitality room again. You're waiting there for Neal-you're going to interview him, remember? He arrives, and after talking with a few fans and signing a few autographs, the two of you head to the band's dressing room to do the interview.
Amazingly, he's not tired after such an exhausting show, but rather hyper from such an enthusiastic crowd. You find out that Neal's an only child who grew up so poor that his grandmother had to take curtains off the windows in order to sew a new dress for his mother. Then he excitedly tells you that he's now become successful enough to buy homes for both of them! That's the kind of guy Neal is, and he means it when he says, "I spend what I make! Some people are ashamed to admit that they've made money. I'm not. I just like to spend it on my family, friends and myself."
By three o'clock in the morning, you call it a night. Besides, the next day you're heading off to San Francisco to tour the Nightmare offices and meet with the rest of the Journey family.
Once back home, you can't wait to get off the plane, into your car and head for a telephone. It's impossible to keep still-you've had the most exciting time of your life!
© Bop Magazine, September 1983, Transcribed by Kris.