Tuesday, November 9, 2010

STYX Takes Us Back To The 70s

STYX visited the Salem Civic Center on October 25, 2010 and schooled the small crowd in attendance in what’s missing in today’s industry: true musicianship. The band has been on the road performing The Grand Illusion and Pieces of Eight, two of their huge releases from the seventies, in their entirety. The last few years has seen a resurgence of bands from the seventies packing arenas all across the country and STYX has been riding high on that wave.

The band’s current lineup consists of only one original member, James “JT” Young on guitar and vocals, longtime member Tommy Shaw on acoustic and electric guitar and vocals, Lawrence Gowan on keyboards and vocals, Ricky Phillips on bass and Todd Sucherman on drums. Longtime member Chuck Panozzo is on tour with the band, but is in a weakened state because of being HIV positive and only performs in some of the bigger cities.

As the house lights went down that night in Salem, the large video screen onstage came on and we watched a person in their bedroom flipping through a vinyl collection of such seventies groups as Journey and Bachman Turner Overdrive. Then, you see the STYX album The Grand Illusion and they take it out of its sleeve and place it on a turntable. The band then hit the stage and began “Great White Hope”, song one on side one.

Tommy Shaw’s vocals on “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)” were dead on and have aged like a fine wine. Lawrence took the spotlight for a huge hit of theirs “Come Sail Away” and received a huge, favorable response from the crowd.I, personally, miss Dennis DeYoung being in the band, but I do have to give credit to Lawrence Gowan. At times, he did sound eerily similar to DeYoung, but the guy has an amazing voice and he definitely knows how to win over a crowd. As the concluded side one, Tommy looked at the audience and asked “What do we do now? Flip it over!” and the video screen showed the actual vinyl album being turned over. Yea, kind of cheesy, but it does make you linger for those days of the pops and cracks of the vinyl.

James took center stage for a rocking version of “Miss America” that had the diehards on their feet. The band ripped through the rest of side two and then proceeded to take a twenty minute intermission before returning and starting side one of Pieces of Eight. “Great White Hope” kicked it off and the band really seemed to be genuinely having a great time on stage playing these songs. It was very infectious seeing Tommy and James smiling at each other and clowning around.

“Renegade” was without a doubt the big crowd pleaser of the night. Up until this point, the majority of the crowd was rather subdued and sat during the performances, but this song brought the entire place to its feet. The song is a definite staple for the local album rock station in town and the crowd was ignited with enthusiasm.

As side two of Pieces of Eight ended with the very mellow song “Aku Aku”, the band left the stage for a brief moment but then returned for a short encore. It consisted of a great cover of the Beatles “I Am the Walrus” followed by a Tommy crowd favorite “Too Much Time on My Hands” from Paradise Theater. The band then showed their appreciation to the fans by pelting them with STYX beach balls, frisbees and tote bags.

Overall, the show was a feast for the senses. The huge video screen provided a great backdrop all night long of art work and images. The ears were treated to a feast of instrumental expertise as the band sounded as good if not better than the recorded versions of these songs. It is very unusual to see a group that peaked in the late seventies and early eighties to be so on top of their game over thirty years into their careers. The music was top notch as were the vocals of everyone. A band like STYX just proves that these guys are from the old school of music making where you don’t do it because it’s the cool thing to do; you do it because you LOVE doing it.