Styx has been my all-time favorite band since high school. The first album I ever bought by any artist was The Grand Illusion by Styx in 1977. I actually got it on cassette tape so I could play it in my car. By the time I graduated high school in 1981, I had added Pieces of Eight, Cornerstone and Paradise Theater to my collection. When I was a senior, someone broke into my 1966 Chevy Bel-Air and stole all my tapes. So I went down to the music store at Port Plaza Mall (anyone remember the name?), and bought the four Styx tapes again. The clerk thought I was nuts.
Two years after high school, I vacationed in Southern California for 2 weeks with my roommate Dean Dupont. That summer, Mr. Roboto was all over the radio, so of course I added Kilroy Was Here to my collection.
So, now fast forward to 1996. I was living in Southern California. Styx had been through some changes and drummer John Panozzo had passed away. The remaining original band reunited, with Todd Sucherman on drums, and didÂ the Return To Paradise tour. That year, Tricia and I saw Styx and Kansas at the Greek Theater, an amphitheater at Griffith Park in Hollywood. We had a lot of fun with our friends Jeff and Catherine Greenberg, and I had finally fulfilled my 20-year-old dream of seeing Styx live.
So, now fast forward again to 2009. I’ve since moved back to Wisconsin, and now I get word that Styx is coming to the Brown County Fair. Very cool. Thanks to Kathy Kocken and Jason Gegere, I got VIP tickets in row three. And that’s where Tricia and I were Thursday night.
The day started with this article in the Green Bay Press-Gazette. In it, Sucherman says that “the band has never sounded better, and the band has never had this much energy.” Before reading the article, I didn’t know what to expect. Now I figured we were in for a good show. And Styx didn’t disappoint.
They played for about 90 minutes, during which they threw at least 50 guitar picks into the audience, and also tossed Styx logo beach balls and frisbees. And audience interaction was only the start. I’ve heard a number of “older” bands over the years, and the saddest thing is when they just don’t sound good any more. Not the case with Styx. They had all the energy of a top-notch rock band. And their harmonies in songs like Renegade were dead on.
James Young was at the top of his game on guitar, always the rocker of the group. Likewise, Tommy Shaw’s guitar on songs like Crystal Ball was fresh while his vocals sounded as good as they did 35 years ago. Ricky Phillips was very energetic and entertaining on bass. Lawrence Gowen’s vocals were genuine while he often played keyboards backwards, never missing a beat. Todd Sucherman showed why he was voted best rock drummer in 2009 by readers of Modern Drummer Magazine. And Chuck Panozzo even made an appearance playing bass on several songs. As a unit, Styx still has still got it. Overall, it was a great rock performance.
I’m trying to remember all the songs they performed. Here’s what I recall:
- Lady (1972)
- Lorelei (1975)
- Suite Madame Blue (1975)
- Crystal Ball (1976)
- The Grand Illusion (1977)
- Fooling Yourself (1977)
- Come Sail Away (1977)
- Renegade (1978)
- Blue Collar Man (1978)
- Babe (1979)
- Too Much Time On My Hands (1980)
And they surprised us with a nostalgic cover of the Beatles’ I Am The Walrus. Gowen explained that this was the kind of song that inspired the creation of Styx in the early 70s. Completely missing from the concert was anything from Kilroy Was Here, I suspect that they just let Dennis DeYoung do those songs in his solo act, which is just as well.
Two days later, I’m still pumped that I got to see Styx live, and my iPod helps to keep the concert fresh in my head. If you see them coming to your town, don’t miss it!