w/ REO Speedwagon & Don Felder
Sunday, July 23, 2017
Verizon Wireless Amphitheater
In 1977 I was 4 years old. Gas was $0.79 a gallon, a three bedroom house on average cost $33,000, and a bikini was $9.00. Oh yeah, and Styx’s groundbreaking and now legendary album The Grand Illusion. This year marks the 40th anniversary of The Grand Illusion and also the release of The Mission which is the band’s first album of new material in nearly 15 years. So what did Styx do to celebrate? They did what they do best; they hit the road and put on what many are saying have been the band’s best performances since ’77.
The show was kicked off by former Eagles guitarist Don Felder and REO Speedwagon. I’ll be honest and say that neither act did much to wow me or even remotely impress me. Felder is an amazing guitarist but that was about it. I mean, I already don’t like the Eagles so even him singing a whole set of Eagles songs is just as bad. As for REO, I will have to give credit where credit is due. Kevin Cronin is a spectacular front man. I had no clue that he was so good at this but the band’s music just seemed so vanilla to me and did nothing for me.
Finally, the moment I had been waiting all night for came as the houselights went out to roaring, nearly sold out Verizon Amphitheater. “Overture” from the latest album The Mission filled the air and the band took to the stage and kicked right into “Gone Gone Gone.” This was a huge a thing. To see a band like Styx opening up their show with a brand new song really showed just how proud they are of the new material. Lead singer/keyboardist Lawrence Gowan was all over the stage and getting everyone up to their feet. The band then went right into “Blue Collar Man” which absolutely melted my face. The harmonies, the playing, everything was on point and mind blowing.
For the rest of the night, Styx would deliver a high energy set of classics such as “Fooling Yourself”, “Crystal Ball”, and James “JY” Young absolutely killing it on vocals on “Miss America.” Another highlight of the show was another new track, “Radio Silence.” The new material fused with the classic stuff so well but I would have loved to have heard at least a couple of other new songs like “The Greater Good” or “Red Storm.” This says a lot about a band’s new material when not only does it mesh so well with the more classic material but it has you wanting more of it.
As a whole, I was so impressed with the overall energy of the band. I don’t know if it’s the new album or the fact that Gowan has rightfully claimed his position in Styx but the band seemed to play like a band more than ½ their age. Tommy Shaw’s voice has just gotten better over the years and watch that guy play guitar is something to see. They obviously enjoy what they do and they enjoy making music together and that sentiment is projected from the stage.
One of the biggest surprises was “Too Much Time on My Hands.” This was never a song that I never thought much about at all but live, this song absolutely kills. It’s almost like how KISS took “I Was Made for Loving You” and made it this really heavy song. Well, Styx did exactly that with this song and it was out of this world. Gowan also took a solo spot on the piano doing “Khedive” from the new album and then did a great little melody of “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Golden Slumbers” before going right into “Come Sail Away” which was stunning and just flat out mind blowing. Styx returned to the stage with a mind blowing encore of “Rockin’ the Paradise” and a “Renegade” that completely brought the house down to a roaring crowd.
In all respect, I never in my wildest dreams knew that Styx could kick so much fucking ass live. Here is a band that I have always had some sort of preconceived notions about not only crush those notions but pretty much rip my face off and hand it back to me. Styx live in 2017 is a top notch live performance that I feel can stand beside any of the greats. The show was a blast. The set was perfectly sequenced, the band played with so much youthful energy. Lawrence Gowan is hands down one of the greatest front men out on the road today. His voice is top notch and his performance is so heartfelt, inspired, and moving. By the end of this amazing evening, I found myself walking out of the venue asking, “Dennis De Who?”