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Eels didn't think Steve Perry's surprise performance would happen

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Former Journey frontman Steve Perry surprised a crowd – and the rock band he was playing with – when he took the stage for the first time in 19 years.

"And even that day when we were there, I still thought, 'It’s probably not going to happen. I’ll believe it when I see it.' It wasn’t until he actually got on the stage and he started singing that I realized, 'Oh wow, it’s really happening!'" The Eels' leader Mark Oliver Everett told the music website Stereogum.

Perry joined the Eels on stage at the 1,000-seat Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul on Sunday. His surprise performance has gone viral – getting over 1 million views in just a few days.

So how did this reclusive rocker come to perform with the Eels? It had actually been years in the making.

"Eels has a rich secret life that is rarely revealed, and part of it is that we’re good friends with Steve Perry," Everett told the Wall Street Journal.

For years, the Eels had been asking Perry to perform with them, but he always turned them down, Everett told Stereogum. But finally, this year, Perry said he wanted to.

The band didn't get their hopes up because they didn't think it would actually happen. And then, about a week into the group's tour, Perry showed up in St. Paul – and joined them on stage for the band's third encore of the night.

"Just to be there with him in his element doing what he was made to do. And as my friend, it felt good to see him feeling so good about that," Everett told Stereogum of Perry's performance.

For the last decade Perry has been attending Eels shows, but for the first few years when Perry would ask to meet the band, Everett would turn him down.

"I always felt awkward about it because when I grew up I didn’t have an appreciation for Journey, and I felt like, 'Well, I don’t know what I’ll say to him.' So I avoided him for years," Everett told Stereogum.

Finally, based on the recommendation of a friend, Everett met Perry and invited him to the Eels' weekly croquet match. Everett told the website, "He came one Sunday and never left."

Perry would show up unannounced at rehearsals and over the years, the band would bait him into singing Journey songs, but he'd laugh it off – until one day he grabbed the microphone and sang, Everett told Stereogum.

Since that day, Everett started to appreciate Journey. And a few years later, Perry finally agreed that he'd join the band on stage.

As for why Perry chose the St. Paul venue, Everett said "you'll have to ask him."

It was his first public appearance since his last solo tour in 1995, the Wall Street Journal reports. Perry retired from music after recording two solo albums and a Journey album in 1996, citing arthritis as a reason, Rolling Stone reports.

There is a chance the Eels and Perry could perform onstage again.

"Personally, I would love that, but that’s all up to Steve,” Everett told the Associated Press. “All I can do is try to not stop believin'.'"

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