by Shirley Bassey, Debbie Harry, Elton John, Lady Gaga, Bruce Springsteen, and Sting
This performance, ridiculous by definition and in recorded fact, climaxed a Sting-organized rainforest benefit a couple weeks ago. Jon Pareles's New York Times review concluded, "Sting said that Mr. Springsteen also chose the concert's all-star finale... [Journey's] 1981 arena crowd-pleaser once scorned as cheesy corporate rock. Now, from its appearance in the finale of The Sopranos to a best-selling version from Glee to a Springsteen endorsement at Carnegie Hall, it's well on its way to rehabilitation."
Not on its way: It's there. Springsteen is not going to sing Styx. You're never going to hear the E Street Band air out "Time for Me to Fly." Just this one, and it got there not because of Glee or The Pitchfork 500 (where Journey are sandwiched between Springsteen's "Atlantic City" and Bad Brains' "Pay to Cum") or The Sopranos or Bruuuuce. It's because of VH1's Behind the Music.
Before music television, rock history was print's domain, outside the occasional biopic or TV special. In the late '70s and early '80s—the era of high AOR that Journey apotheosizes—that meant music mags (and the odd book), which were written by people who detested Journey et al. and found them unworthy of poring over the way they had Dylan, Lennon, or Springsteen. With the Beatles, people got a story; with Journey, people got songs.
Behind the Music premiered in 1997, and musicians one might not have cared about were suddenly really interesting. In February 2001, the Journey episode premiered, and it was riveting. The band had started out as prog rock; acquired the nakedly ambitious lead singer Steve Perry, who wrote and sang gut-busting prom songs; and the tension between him and the band suddenly gave them a human dimension. Perry leaving and the band hiring Steve Augeri, who happens to sound exactly like Perry, was stupid on paper and looked ridiculous and dramatic enacted on-screen. As someone who'd basically found a calling as a rock critic because I had found other people who hated Journey, too, I was stunned that I couldn't stop watching. Suddenly, Journey weren't just a bunch of songs—they had an arc that everyone could know. It gave people a story to go with the songs. And people tend to canonize stories more than songs.