The Great Journey Lip-Synch Controversy

A few weeks ago, I saw Journey at Manchester Apollo, which I thought at the time to be a superb show. Since then I’ve noticed the stories that have rumbling on for a while across various message boards, such as this one, suggesting that vocalist Steve Augeri had been lip-synching on some songs where he couldn’t hit the high notes.

Initially I dismissed these stories as malicious gossip, perhaps spread by diehard Steve Perry fans, which is why I didn’t blog about it at the time. But since Steve Augeri has been ‘temporarily’ replaced by Jeff Scott Soto, the dead tree media have picked up the story. As the official Journey website states:

Jeff Scott Soto to assume JOURNEY lead singer duties starting on July 7th in Bristow, VA due to Steve Augeri throat infection

July 6, 2006 — Due to a chronic throat infection, Journey’s lead singer, Steve Augeri, has been forced to leave the band’s current nationwide tour with Def Leppard. Jeff Scott Soto, who has previously performed with Journey guitarist Neal Schon, will assume the band’s lead singer duties starting with the July 7th show in Bristow, VA. Steve Augeri’s condition will be closely monitored by his physician to determine when he may be able to rejoin the tour.

According to Journey, “Steve’s been suffering with an acute throat condition since before we kicked off the tour with Def Leppard. We were hoping he’d be in well condition to handle the rigors of the road but unfortunately it appears to be a chronic condition requiring total voice rest. We all wish Steve a speedy recovery.”

I’m still not sure what to make of this. I did notice Augeri’s vocals falter in one song (it might have been ‘Faithfully’, which is one song I’ve heard mentioned), quite early in the set, but he was still note-perfect later in the show. Was I hearing taped vocals later on?

I’m not fond of the use of tapes or programming in live performance. I found myself annoyed when Paradise Lost used a lot of programmed keyboards rather than have a live keyboard player on stage last year. But background keyboards are one thing, lead vocals are another thing entirely.

I hope this story isn’t true, but I fear it might be.

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2 Responses to The Great Journey Lip-Synch Controversy

  1. Ted Oliphant says:

    This has been going on for years, no one has heard poor Stevie A. sing for over 3 years. He’s been on “the loop” lip syncing. I shot a video of Journey in 1999 right when Stevie A. joined, people said it was the best JRNY video they’d ever seen, except for Neal Schon who cringed as he watched the video because Stevie’s voice wasn’t cutting it even 7 years ago (Neal has perfect pitch). Herbie Herbert told me “Man when I heard Stevies’ audition tape I said “Man, he owns these songs” but when they did the live DVD from Mandalay Bay, Nocturne had to take out all of Stevie’s vocal tracks and fix them in post. Now Deen Castronovo can play all of Steve Smith’s drum parts and sing EXACTLY like Perry, but they only let him sing one or two songs. What is the problem here? This Milli Vanilli routine has come home to haunt them.

  2. Ross in Prestwick says:

    Interesting that this thread is still ‘topical’ as only a few short month ago we were debating Perry and Journey, and the (subsequently successful) UK/ Euro dates.
    Now the same thorny issues will be raised again with the band having just announced further UK dates for March ’07, and currently still touring with Jeff Scott Soto.
    But back to the ‘contoversy’, and my take on the whole sorry state of affairs…

    I understand the official statement regarding Augeri’s (temporary?) departure and JSS stepping in, but having taken a lot of time to review the whole ‘lip syncing’ story and alleged proof of such (which followed hard on the heels of a successful UK and European foray), I have to put over my own opinion on a band that from 1975-1996 I championed to the absolute hilt.

    Look at it this way:
    The old ‘the bigger the lie’ the harder to believe / accept rule could be at play here.
    Churchill allowing German bombing runs during WWII(particularly over Coventry if my history info memory serves) so they did not know British Intel had broken codes;
    Bands using tapes/ lip syncing for numerous reasons.
    I use an example prior to the current Journey woes as it is now known to be fact and – let’s be honest – put’s the vocal wars in to a fair bit of perspective.
    But it does make my point – it is hard to accept simply because it would seem inconceivable that such an act would ever be considered (particularly someone with the pedigree of Neal Schon).
    But it’s a story that will never be disproven because Journey will never acknowledge it (plausible deniability).
    It’s no secret that one gig under the microscope is ‘available’ (Manchester, UK) and if anyone wants to do some serious homework they can see/ hear just why the accusation is levelled at that gig plus Sweden and a host of US dates.

    Here’s the thing:
    There are some vocalists who have a distinct style and are tagged as ‘the greats’ whether in range, histrionics, frontmen capability or simply have that indefinable ‘something’.
    Perry is one, no question. Plant you recognise within first seconds, Jon Anderson couldn’t be more different but has still got incredible pipes at, what, 60 years old?
    Now in a number of instances, a singer doesn’t get the credit for just what a unique range, style and pitch he had/ has until someone else steps in.
    Classic case in point – the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert from Wembley Stadium some decade and a bit more ago. Plant and Roger Daltrey were two notables who ‘struggled’ with trying to emulate.
    So with Perry you have someone who possibly can never be copied or emulated, but Augeri had the job of doing just that.
    He has his own voice/ sound sure, but he is purposefully trying to sing these songs as close as he can to Perry in style, intonation, phrasing – and that for me could well be the source of the problem.
    Journey over the last half dozen years have never toured as much or played more gigs – it has to be taking it’s toll.
    3 hour Generation shows – although interestingly this was when ‘shared’ vocals came into play.
    I’ve never bought into the comment by Ross that they are all just finding their voice and having fun etc..its quite evident to me it was to assist Augeri, and Castronovo (ironically, the one guy who is a genuine Perry sound-alike) certainly carries a number of songs (I believe in some shows he took up to four songs on lead).
    Schon has said in the past Augeri has had vocal or throat issues, and it all comes about – for me – due to his job description.
    Doesn’t automatically equate to lip syncing, but with the business of putting this cash cow out there to the masses it may mean – as incredulous as it sounds – that it was considered/ was being done rather than the financial suicide of cancelling and having to take valuable timeout to regroup, which they quite literally probably cannot afford to do.
    There are many instances of situations in many lines of business (entertainment or otherwise) where things get so critical, blinkered or ‘too far down the line’ that cracks are covered up by introducing activities that vary from a little dodgy to downright unethical.

    The above may sound a little like a defence I guess, but let me state I don’t condone it – I firmly believe the accusations to be true and it’s a sickening scenario and as big a kick in the teeth as any current fan (or any fan of live rock music) could ever take.
    For me it’s an unforgivable act – especially with the history, legacy and pedigree of this particular band.

    Recent reports and reviews seem to indicate fairly mixed receptions with JSS – some will love it, some will wonder what the hell is going on and others like myself were just hoping they get the Leppard Tour over and put it to bed, leaving the legacy a little tarnished but intact based on past glories.

    Oh, and contrary to what some may think knowing my passion for the band of the past, considering Steve P again would be gargantuan p.r. but may turn out to be no revelation.
    SP had lost a part of his range by the ‘Medicine’ tour (but jeez he could still deliver), and a further near-decade of retirement will not have helped the voice.
    Would any real fan want to see the ‘classic’ line up one more time if there was any chance of the boys not being able to recreate the magic?
    Well, yes, I would love to see it one more time but based on current activities and relationships (let alone could SP still cut it?) I think it’s highly improbable.

    Which is a shame, because Perry may well have lost some of his register and confidence (having not sung in anger for years other than occasional soundtrack and guest vocalist work), but his very presence and voice would change the dynamics dramatically.
    The presence of Perry and Schon on stage and the ego bubbles that surrounded them (certainly from the Frontiers tour onwards) were so big that it’s a miracle Cain, Valory and Smith could fit on stage. Any friction between them on stage or in the studio (which was actually a positive as they constantly raised each other’s game) produced that very fire that cannot be reproduced – without both being part of the entity.
    Heart and Soul baby, simple as that.

    Ironically, currently, the band have probably ridden the storm out, and the vast majority of Journey fans and concert goers will probably never know there ever was such a dramatic chain of events behind the scenes. Add to the fact that the Tour with Def Leppard brought them to bigger numbers than they could commands on their own (audiences of between 5000 and 20000 depending on locale) and you have, ironically, their healthiest situation in years (by ‘today’s Journey’ standards).

    I had limited interest in the post 1998 Journey, and now I have zero respect.
    I would still prefer to see the Journey end, because you’ve done nothing worthy of the name lately, guys – quite the opposite.
    And if you don’t agree you can eat my 1979 Evolution Tour Boxer Shorts.