This story is told by a handwritten note thrown to the foot of Journey's massive stage:
"Hi Steve Perry! You're cute! Rock 'n' Roll rules! Journey's No. 1! Love, Sandie."
From the day Journey's May 27 show at the newly opened Rosemont Horizon was announced until the pride of San Francisco launches into "Where Were You", Chicago is primed for another great performance by a band that made its mark here on several previous occasions.
In all, Journey spends four days in Chicago, including a side trip to Des Moines for a day-long outdoor festival on Memorial Day. But it's no wonder the group feels an allegiance to the Windy City: Chicago is Journey's biggest sales market outside of its hometown, where Bay Area fans put Journey right next to the Doobie Brothers and Boz Scaggs in their hearts.
The excitement begins in earnest when the city's most listened to FM rocker, WLUP-FM, "the Loop", announces it will play the members of Journey and road crew in a softball game Sunday afternoon. Tickets to the game entitle fans to either a free copy of Journey's single, "Anyway You Want It" or $1 off the Departure LP, and nearly 10,000 were reportedly sold out from just two outlets in less than two days.
Joining Gregg Rolie, Ross Valory, Neal Schon and Steve Smith in their battle on the ball field were members of their road crew, staff from CBS and JAM Productions, promoters of the Journey show. Ably managed by road manager Pat "Bubba" Morrow, the San Francisco rockers show their talents are not limited to music by whipping the station staff 17 to 7. Steve Perry, the band's lead vocalist and sex symbol in spite of his efforts to "just have a good time", provides colorful commentary for the game "because I wanted to help the rest of the guys win." Two weeks before, Perry was mobbed by a reported 7,000 fans in Detroit at a similar promotion that got a little out of hand.
That evening, while the rest of the group "heals" at its hotel, guitarist Schon, who joined the hugely popular Santana at the tender age of 16, packs up his axe and strolls into Biddy Mulligan's, a far northside Chicago club which features mostly live blues acts.
With cameras rolling for Journey's in-production cable television special for Showtime (as they were at the ball game), Schon jams for an hour with veteran bluesman Buddy Guy and Junior Wells. Clearly taken by surprise by "some young white guy", Guy and Wells eventually give Schon his time in the spotlight as well as their respect. "It took 'em a while to realize I could play the blues," says Schon, "but after that I won 'em over." Schon had previously played with Albert King and members of Muddy Waters' band at a taping of PBS' Soundstage program.
Two days later on the way to the Rosemont Horizon, the expressway is jammed with cars loaded with kids on their way to the show. As the black limousine weaves its way through the slow mass of traffic, fans one by one recognize Perry and Rolie and shout their discoveries in a litany of praise.
"Journey you're the greatest," yells one car full of fans. "Hey are you guys gonna rock tonight?" queries another. One girl can only shriek Perry's name, the mouth the words, "I love you."
Traveling with the Babys on this tour, Journey is quick to make sure its opening act has plenty of time, plenty of sound and plenty of lights. And as the Babys were pelted with beer bottles and such on its last visit to Chicago (opening for Molly Hatchet), a healthy does of support is in order as well.
Happily the scene is not repeated and the Babys are as well received as most headliners. "I told those guys they'd do great tonight," says Schon. "They do real well with us."
Not wanting to be sore losers, WLUP deejays judge entries in its "Journey Banner Welcome" contest at intermission. The 40 or so banners being displayed range from crude magic marker and white sheet affairs to time consuming works of love and art. Most of the winners are given a complete collection of Journey albums, but several are left speechless at being invited backstage to meet the band after the show.
The scene backstage is sedate and professional. Special friends and fans are seated to the side of the stage for the closest (not to mention loudest) view in the house. Most of the action consists of last minute introductions to the lighting operators, but there is no indication of nervousness as the five-member band is herded underneath the stage.
As the overture nears the end, Journey runs up a ramp leading to a hole in the center of the stage to the approving roar of the crowd. The airplay, interviews and promotions have all led to this moment, and the fans are ready to let Journey's music take them away.
Unlike many rock 'n' roll groups that milk the audience for every bit of applause and adulation, deserved or not, Journey gives the crowd a healthy dose of music before stopping to say hello. In fact, the band plays as many as four songs before taking a break, a technique that enables them to give the crowd its money's worth at the same time staying true to Journey's often conceptual songs.
jour·ney (júr n) n., 1. Travel from one place to another; a trip. 2. Sellout!, as in Infinity Tour '78, Evolution Tour '79, Departure Tour '80. 3. A long overland trip as distinguished from a voyage or flight. 4. Five of the most talented, professional musicians in the business.
--Definition according to Kelley
While the first two groupings included "That's the Same Way" and a surprise oldie, "Kahoutek", the crowd jumps to its feet for "Lights", "Feeling That Way" and "Anytime" from the bestselling Infinity LP. Like a chorus, the crowd stands on chairs singing with songs that somehow mark a special time in their lives. "You sing good," encourages Perry, holding out his microphone for a 20,000 strong singalong.
From the swaying with "Lovin' Touchin' Squeezin'" to the encouraging response to a brand new song "Dixie Highway", Journey, especially the energy-bound Perry, delivers 17 crafted yet still exciting songs, leaving no stone in its relatively short career unturned. Smiles, rather than complaints, punctuate the remarks of exiting fans.
"It's good to hear a band play real good music for a change," remarks one older listener. "A lot of groups just sound like noise in a big hall, but Journey really knows how to play."
"I thought they were great when they played with the Stones," offers another. "But tonight they were incredible. This is one of the best concerts I've ever been to."
Before the band can recover sufficiently to meet the "Loop Banner" winners at a Columbia-sponsored beer and cheese reception, most of Journey's sound equipment and staging are packed securely in Nightmare, Inc.'s own trucks (the members of the band and management are incorporated, leasing its "services" in the form of tours and records to Columbia). As each member emerges he is met by an assortment of retail and radio personnel and each is greeted warmly.
One contest winner, a young girl who designed a large black and silver sparkle banner with a "#1" illuminated in red lights, has been waiting for Steve Perry to get his autograph. It's practically the only thing she can manage to say, and her friends explain the banner cost them $50 to make. The girl's anxiety that Perry won't show subsides as she and her helpers are shepherded back to the dressing room for photos with the group. Introduced to Perry, she can only smile - and hold out her program and a pen.
© Billboard Magazine, July 1980 (transcribed by Kate)