On May 18, classic rockers the Steve Miller Band, Journey, and Tower of Power will join forces for a summer tour. Last week, Miller, along with Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain -- both original Journey members -- participated in a lengthy conference call to talk about all kinds of stuff, from their respective histories to what they've been up to lately and what attendees can expect from the shows.
Schon talked solo for about an hour, addressing a popular subject of the last couple years -- Arnel Pineda -- and if it is still hard for longtime fans to accept a Steve Perry-less Journey. For those out of the Journey loop, Pineda is the Filipino singer-songwriter who captured the band's attention via his You Tube videos, getting him an audition with the band and subsequently the front man position held for many years by Steve Perry. Schon assured everyone that Arnel is continuing to wow fans: "He is a hell of a performer and he brings a lot to the table. His first show with us was an audition -- a do or die situation -- and the audience just went with him. He got out there into the audience. We didn't know he had that energy in him. He brings a lot."
Their collaboration is extending outside of the Journey realm, too -- the singer is working with Schon on a cover of the Police's "Synchronicity II" for a multi-artist release to benefit child slavery. Schon also notes that the band is moving into the future with Pineda and that he gets that some folks will always live in the past. He just doesn't have much time for fans still pining for Perry.
"If people don't like us for who we are right now, don't bother. Find your new love," he says.
Schon says the tour will be a combination of those beloved classics, a la "Don't Stop Believin'," and some new stuff, too. He says the audiences have been seeing a lot of younger folks and generally range from ages 7-70. He also says not to be surprised if any of the bands team up for some live jamming during the tour.
"I have opened for Steve and Ross [Valory, original Journey bassist] has played with Steve, so who knows what will happen. I'd love to play with Tower, too."
As far as checking out new music, Schon thinks Jack White is the best thing "modern rock" has going on.
After an hour or so, Steve Miller and Journey's Jonathan Cain took over talking duties.
Both longtime Bay area musicians, Miller and Cain both chimed in on what was magical about that early '60s and '70s rock 'n' roll scene.
"We were a part of the core of original groups of the San Francisco scene," says Miller, "It was a whole new approach to music; we changed how people attend concerts. There was an amazing amount of creativity happening at the time and that's what helped shaped bands like Journey and us, Tower of Power, too. It makes sense that the music has become classic. It was magic. I left Chicago to go there in '65 or '66 -- it was a true social phenomena. When we went outside of SF, we were bringing culture to places all over the world. I'm 70 now, this was my 20s and I think that was one of the most vibrant periods in history for a cultural revolution and that stuff changed the world."
"During that time period," Cain adds, "People were hungry for a combination of blues, pop, soul and great melodies. We had Bill Graham, who brought the Bay area together. We had the Bammy's (Bay Area Music Awards). It was a brotherhood of music. In the '70s and '80s, we enjoyed some of the greatest moments with our fans. There was so much fan participation. In those days, you did a radio show and you talked about what you were doing with a whole city. We were blessed and that's what contributes to lots of our success today."
Both guys are excited about the resurgence of vinyl. Cain says it's "here to stay" and Miller says it's "like a juicy steak -- once you listen to it, anyone would love it more than digital, though digital is the world we live in today." Miller isn't, however, so fond of phones at concerts.
"U.S. audiences are absorbed by pictures and videos, they want to party and take pictures for Facebook. In Europe, they're there to hear the music and enjoy the live music being played. You can see U.S. audiences being shocked when they realize that what they're recording is actually happening on stage in front of them," he says.
The Steve Miller Band will be serving up plenty of the hits but also some new ones, too. Miller says he has his own studio and is recording all the time, having just reworked all the songs from his iconic The Joker. Originally released in 1973, the recording just celebrated a 40th birthday. He says he gets bummed when "5,000 people leave to get a hotdog when I announce I'm going to play new songs," but that's not gonna stop the feisty rocker.
Journey, Steve Miller Band, and Tower of Power hit Phoenix's Ak-Chin Pavlion on May 18. If you have a burning desire to raise a lighter and wave that flicker-y flame while a wistful ballad envelopes a crowd, this is your night.
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