Styx gets a bad rap. They’re one of those punch-line bands that people claim to like ironically. This is both unfair and stupid. There’s a subset of great classic rock bands that are being kept out of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for having the gall to be too popular. Along with Journey, Kiss, Rush, Boston and Chicago, it seems that success and longevity have worked against them. No matter, though, because an evening with Styx is what rock n’ roll is really all about.
At Summerfest tonight, it was no exception...Styx blasted off the night with one of their signature hits with Blue Collar Man (Long Nights), setting the tone for a wonderful evening of classic blasts from the past. Followed by the rousing "The Grand Illusion" the entire audience was standing on the aluminum bleacher benches of the M&I Classic Rock Stage like drunks on skateboards. Nevertheless, I did manage a few good shots of the band. Anyways, my attention was turned towards the band itself.
Styx, a band that's a shell of it's former self, relied on Lawrence Gowen to tackle the vocal and keyboard void left by original member Dennis DeYoung. Taking the calling of the 12 year veteran he is, Gowan, showcased the multi-talented force off he is on "Lady" and "I'm O.K." He has that unique ability to fuse constant energy with vocal brillance. Kinda made you forget about DeYoung....
James Young, the guitarist and the only original member left, kicked in his two cents worth. Hovered the stage with his towering pose on "Lorelei" and "Miss America", his distinctive vocals and his fingerwork on his axe shined brilliantly!
All eyes were on Tommy Shaw as most of the Styx's popular material is from this talented guitarist/singer. Charged with charisma, Shaw bounced around from one side of stage to the other, with his long blond mane flowing. Recalling his days of joining Styx after the Equinox album, Shaw leads the band into a moving version of "Crystal Ball".
The real surprise of the night was the special appearance of original bassist, Chuck Panozzo. Sidelined at times due to health issues concerning his struggles with HIV, Panozzo received a warm welcome as strapped on the bass to jam with his bandmates on the Grand Illusion hits, "Fooling Yourself (An Angry Young Man)" and "Come Sail Away".
When I was shouting out the chorus to “Come Sail Away” at the top of my lungs, and considering the absurdity of the lyric “I thought that they were angels, but much to my surprise, they climbed aboard their starship and headed for the skies,” I cracked a giant smile. At this point, I realized that the people who make fun of this band, or others like it, have no rock n’ roll soul, and their opinion doesn’t matter. It was a night for rock and roll anyways...
Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)
The Grand Illusion
Too Much Time on My Hands
Man in the Wilderness
Fooling Yourself (An Angry Young Man)
Come Sail Away
I Am the Walrus