One of the most forgotten and underrated bands on the planet is indeed still very much alive and if their ardent fan base has anything to say Styx is not going anywhere anytime soon.
Playing in front of a capacity crowd at the Northwest Art and Air Festival Saturday night in Albany, OR Styx powered through a 13-song set that included most of their hits and if crowd reaction is any indicator (at least half were first timers to see Styx) their presence in the northwest is solid. Yes, the fee to get in was based on donation only and present-day Styx primarily headlines small venues and casinos, but their music is so solid and, despite playing mostly 30-year old-plus songs, they are nowhere near extraneous.
Set opener “Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)” showed off why singer/guitarist Tommy Shaw boasts one of the purest voices in rock today. He sounds the same as he did decades ago. The moving “Man in the Wilderness” and “Crystal Ball” not only reflect America’s mood today but also show Shaw’s versatility on guitar.
Styx certainly has seen its share of complications over the course of its 40 year history. Shaw, who left in the mid-80s, and guitarist James “J.Y.” Young are who remain of what would be considered the “classic” line-up. Shaw returned in 1995. Original singer Dennis DeYoung left shortly after but Styx have stayed with singer/keyboardist Lawrence Gowen since 1999 and who sounds remarkably like DeYoung – “Come Sail Away” is as beautiful as ever.
The current line-up with bassist Ricky Phillips (joined in 2003) and drummer Todd Sucherman (1995) has been consistent for nearly a decade and also been on tour for that long. Ever the working band, Styx travels essentially year-round often playing with other classic rock stalwarts like REO Speedwagon, Yes and Foreigner. Original bassist Chuck Panozzo, who has health issues, makes occasional appearances, and if you can catch a show when he plays a few songs it is touching to watch him, Shaw and Young play together.
Not all can be blamed on today’s music industry for Styx’s departure from the mainstream. Concerts consist primarily of the classics and they have not released an album since 2005 which consisted of covers. Their last studio album of original material was Cyclorama in 2003. Young recently indicated the band is interested in making a new album but conceded that it’s difficult to get exposure with a new singer. He has a point – Journey can attest to this.
It’s not classic Styx in the sense of what purists demand but what you see is what you get – Styx has toured more in the last decade than in all previous years combined. “Fooling Yourself (Angry Young Man) is a harmonious blend of keyboards, guitars and drums and just try to stay still during “Too Much Time on My Hands.” “Lorelei” is just as rocking as it was in 1975.
Styx may not be headlining arenas and large amphitheaters the way they did in the 70s and 80s but their future looks quite bright to me.
Styx Albany Setlist:
- Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)
- The Grand Illusion
- Too Much Time on My Hands
- Man in the Wilderness
- I’m OK
- Crystal Ball
- Fooling Yourself (Angry Young Man)
- Miss America
- Come Sail Away
- Rockin’ the Paradise