Review and Photos by: Darren Eagles
Chicago rock veterans Styx took the stage at the Casino Rama Entertainment Centre for the first of two sold out shows this past Friday night. The almost continually touring band keeps bringing in the fans with their timeless power ballads and prog-rock infused guitar anthems. Drawing from their way-back catalog for the setlist, all but one track was released on or before 1981. And the crowd knew every song intimately, as familiar and comfortable as a favourite pair of jeans.
The band opened with the title track from The Grand Illusion and “Too Much Time on My Hands”, from 1981’s Paradise Theatre. Original member guitarists Tommy Shaw and James “JY” Young worked their axes and many of the vocals with the finesse and bravado that over 40 years together has provided. Original member, bassist Chuck Panozzo, who has AIDS/HIV is limited in his ability to fully tour with the band due to health concerns. He makes it out to roughly a third of the shows and plays selected songs onstage. This show was one of them. As he took the stage for “Fooling Yourself” the audience roared their approval. We would see him on and off throughout the show. Full time touring bassist Ricky Phillips held down the big strings for the rest of the set, and pulled double neck guitar duties when Panozzo performed.
Canadian vocalist/keyboardist Lawrence Gowan has been on-hand, stepping in for original lead singer Dennis DeYoung since 1999. His energetic stage antics defy his age, and his charisma with the fans is infectious. Styx is a keyboard heavy band and Gowan is a master of the keys, sometimes even playing them backwards. Vocally, he is right at home singing hits like “Lady”, “Come Sail Away”, “Suite Madam Blue” among others, with flair and complete accuracy to the originals. For Canadian dates, Gowan inserts his own hit “Criminal Mind” into the set. Before playing it, he discussed having played the old Kingswood Music Theatre, and at the time never would have believed he would be playing the world with the mighty Styx one day.
Getting the crowd on it’s feet, “everyone stand up and lets bring this thing home”, the band tore into “Blue Collar Man”, one of the hits on 1978’s Pieces of Eight. As the band left the stage for a short break, Gowan stayed back and spoke to the crowd about NASA inviting the band out for an announcement of a recently discovered 5th moon of Pluto, that they had named “Styx”. Gowan, sitting solo at his keyboard, performed a medley of tunes including, “Rocket Man” from Elton John, the Hockey Night in Canada Theme (to the cheers of the hockey crazed Canadian fans), the intro to Second City’s Bob and Doug MacKenzie theme, “Bohemian Rhapsody” from Queen and “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of The Bay” by Otis Redding.
“Come Sail Away” ended the main set and after a short break the band returned with t-shirts and other swag to toss into the crowd. The two song encore began with “Rockin’ the Paradise” and ended with “Renegade” from Pieces of Eight. The visually and sonically exciting show ended with confetti cannons, streamer blasters and a whole lot of happy Styx fans.
- The Grand Illusion
- Too Much Time on My Hands
- Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)
- One With Everything
- Light Up
- Crystal Ball
- Miss America
- Suite Madame Blue
- Criminal Mind
- Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)
- Bob and Doug MacKenzie Theme / Hockey Night in Canada Theme / Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going to Be a Long, Long Time) / Bohemian Rhapsody / (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay (Gowan on Piano)
- Come Sail Away
- Rockin’ the Paradise