STYX – LIVE AT THE ORLEANS ARENA LAS VEGAS (2016)
Featuring Tommy Shaw, James “JT” Young, Lawrence Gowan, Todd Sucherman, Ricky Phillips and Chuck Panozzo.
Directed by Larry Jordan.
Distributed by Eagle Rock Entertainment. 132 minutes. Not Rated.
It’s all too easy to forget, thirty-some years after Styx first officially broke up at the height of their fame in 1984, that during a ten-year period from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s, they were arguably one of the biggest bands in the world.
In fact, in that sometimes derided musical genre of arena rock, Styx were undoubtedly part of the triumvirate of superstar acts – Journey and Foreigner were the other two biggies – which left a trail of hit singles, multi-platinum albums and sold-out tours in their wake.
Of course by now, Styx, Journey and Foreigner have been on the oldies tour rotation for decades, all of them with only partial original band membership (and none of them with their classic lead vocalists). Styx is better than most in these groups (Foreigner now only has one original member), but they have never again had the original lineup together, not during a three-year reformation in ’89-’92, nor since the band was resurrected fulltime in 1995. The band currently has three of the five original members still in the fold – guitarists Tommy Shaw and James “JT” Young and bassist Chuck Panozzo. (Panozzo has decided to become part-time touring with the band, but he was at this show.)
Of the other original members, tragically, Panozzo’s brother, original drummer John Panozzo died in 1996, so obviously it is impossible to have a complete reunion. Also keyboardist, vocalist and songwriter Dennis DeYoung, arguably the original face of the band, was shut out of the band in 1999 after a very bitter musical divorce.
Styx originally split in 1984 because lead vocalist Dennis DeYoung and lead guitarist Tommy Shaw decided they wanted solo careers, neither of which led to much. (Each had a single top 40 hit as a solo act, “Desert Moon” for DeYoung and “Girls With Guns” for Shaw.) But the rift continued to fester, when DeYoung brought the band back in the late 80s, it was without Shaw (who was then in the “supergroup” Damn Yankees) and when the band fully reunited in 1995, they made it a few years before Shaw and Young decided to set DeYoung adrift.
Still, at this point, DeYoung’s replacement Lawrence Gowan has been with the band for 17 years, which is just a year less time than DeYoung spent in the band in total (not counting the breakup years). And drummer Todd Suchermann has been with the band for over 20 years. So, this iteration of the band has a lot of mileage on them and knows how to play the music for an appreciative audience.
Not surprisingly, this performance goes heavy on the Tommy Shaw hits. The problem is, for as much as I love Tommy Shaw’s music, a concert relying on his hit singles is going to be a pretty short affair. Yes, respect, the dude wrote four stone-cold classics in the band’s songbook, all of which are here and sound mighty fine.
“Too Much Time On My Hands” still sounds weirdly timeless despite its very early-80s new wave guitar line. The band brings on former Eagles-member Don Felder for a rock hard take on “Blue Collar Man (Long Nights).” Likewise, “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)” does not seem to have aged a day. And Shaw’s greatest hit, the stunning rocker “Renegade,” still shimmers like gold in this setting.
And believe me, I get that Shaw and DeYoung can’t stand each other now. I also see that their music was not exactly compatible. Shaw was the better rocker in the band. DeYoung was better at the power ballads. This breadth of styles and textures was always a big selling point for the band, there was a little something for everyone.
Therefore it seems a little too easy for the band, despite the bad blood, for them to pretty much ignore DeYoung’s contributions to the band – after all he wrote and sang some of their biggest, most iconic hits, including “Babe,” “Come Sail Away,” “The Best of Times,” “Lady,” even a novelty like “Mr. Roboto.” In their hit-making career Styx had seven top 10 singles and six of those were written and sung by DeYoung. (Of Shaw’s songs, only “Too Much Time On My Hands” squeaked into the top 10, peaking at #9 in 1981.)
So it’s kind of surprising that of the incredibly short program of only eight songs here (all broken up by somewhat interesting but inessential interview sections), only three were either written or co-written by DeYoung. All of those three were semi-obscure album tracks as well – “Rockin’ The Paradise,” “Light Up,” and “Superstars” (a co-write of Shaw, Young and DeYoung.”) Gowan was brought into the band mainly to take the place of DeYoung, so give the dude a chance to take the spotlight some.
From the evidence of this video, Styx is still a powerful band to see live. However, for a band with such a huge body of hits, it’s kind of odd to see that in such a limited setlist, half of the songs will be somewhat obscure for anyone but the biggest fans of the group. Even as a relatively big fan of the group, I don’t remember two of these eight songs (“Light Up” and “Superstars”). However, what Styx do play, they play extremely well.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2016 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: September 2, 2016.