Styx sailing along just fine with current lineup, says our reviewer
It's always fun to hear when an '80s fan sees a "legacy act" like Styx in concert for the first time decades after the band stopped appearing on the Billboard charts. Gayle Weiswasser in Washington, D.C., filed this review of Styx's recent show in Bethesda, Maryland. Domo arigato, Gayle!
Styx is on a North American tour, playing smallish venues across the country. I caught them at a show in Bethesda, Maryland, where the band did a benefit at the Strathmore Music Center for an organization called CSAAC (Community Services For Autistic Adults and Children). Because it was a benefit show, they played a shorter set with fewer songs than the other shows on their current tour (according to Setlist.com).
I'm not a Styx aficionado, and this was my first time seeing the band. The current lineup includes a few original members of the band: Tommy Shaw (guitarist/singer), James Young (guitarist), and Chuck Panozzo (bassist), who has struggled with health issues and only performed on two songs. In place of original singer Dennis DeYoung, Styx features classical piano player Lawrence Gowan on keyboards and lead vocals, who has been with the band since 1999.
I thought the band sounded great. The stage and lighting were simple, which put the focus on the musicians and the music. Dennis DeYoung's voice is very distinctive, but Gowan has put his mark on the songs and made them his own. He has an amazing stage presence (age 58!) - when he wasn't dancing around the stage and singing, he played keyboards on a spinning elevated circle that showed off his technical prowess and range. Tommy Shaw, who is 62 (!), looked like a man half his age. He kicked and danced and jumped around with no diminution of energy or flexibility.
Because Dennis DeYoung doesn't play with the band anymore, they don't play his signature songs "Babe" or "Mr. Roboto". This show's hits included "Too Much Time On My Hands", "Fooling Yourself", "Lady", "Renegade" and "Come Sail Away", which was the best of the night. Gowan started with an acoustic solo montage of covers like "Rocket Man" and "Bohemian Rhapsody" before transitioning to "Come Sail Away", which the rest of the band eventually joined him on stage for. Styx is known for being dramatic and over the top and yes, some of the songs are (very) cheesy. I loved them.
While it would have been fun to have seen these guys in their arena rock heyday, it was a treat to spend a Tuesday night with some still-very-impressive performers who seem to genuinely like each other and to enjoy reminiscing about days when it was inconceivable that they'd play a venue like Strathmore (according to Shaw). And it all was for a good cause.
Here's a video of the band playing "Come Sail Away": https://youtu.be/thhpbHjyXag
(Publicity photo by Jason Powell)