STYX Live at the Coronado Performing Arts Center [REVIEW]
Review by: Frank Lucas / Photo © 2016 by: Rob Olewinski
The moment Styx stepped onstage was the moment loyal fans were ready to blow the roof off the place with energy and excitement. We, the audience, were assaulted with the legendary, sonic majesty of synths, organs and guitars making for a most theatrical introduction into “The Grand Illusion.”
Like a god of thunder, drummer Todd Sucherman played the introductory cadence first on the snare then eventually with octopus arms around the entire kit with great fire and dexterity. Keyboardist/vocalist Lawrence Gowan played his flashy keyboard parts to perfection despite jumping around, engaging and fully interacting with the audience and spinning his amazing, custom spinning keyboard stand sometimes forwards and sometimes even backwards. Guitarists/vocalists Tommy Shaw and James “JY” Young worked the crowd all over the stage, atop risers and crisscrossed stairs while throwing guitar picks at the screaming fans.
The first three songs of the set; “The Grand Illusion”, “Too Much Time on My Hands” and “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)” clearly landed a haymaker with the rowdy crowd as they sang just about every word with fists pumping in the air. STYX always pride themselves on playing fan favorites which resonate and connect with the masses. The third song in this lineup featured original bassist Chuck Panozzo making a guest appearance much to the rousing delight of all present.
I think it’s worth mentioning that the evening’s unsung hero award belonged to former Babys, Bad English bassist and current STYX member Ricky Phillips. He and Todd Sucherman made for a very tight and formidable rhythm section, supporting the foundation for all the melodic mayhem of complex guitar and keyboard arrangements.
Some of my favorite highlights included the David Bowie tribute of “Space Oddity” morphing into “Crystal Ball.” Let’s not forget the global sing-a-long that is “Come Sail Away” and the dance inducing encore piece, “Rockin’ the Paradise” featuring those trademark STYX vocal harmonies and Lawrence Gowan’s incredibly powerful lead vocals. As wonderfully electric as the set was, some great high points, for me, were of Tommy Shaw and a lone acoustic guitar. The man has aged beautifully in appearance and his vocal range still reaches the heavens as was the case with “Man in the Wilderness”.
One pleasant surprise was the keyboard solo in the set. Lawrence Gowan introduced a piano solo he composed which was a tribute to his father who fought in World War II with the British Navy and the ship he sailed which was named “The Khedive.” The audience was in awe of the man’s stellar, classical pianist technique as the flashy piece featured some tone painting as Gowan “key dived” several times during the ferocious solo. Outstanding playing and a hilarious play on words with the title.
STYX will be on tour all through 2016, throughout the United States. You, the music lover, owe it to yourself to see the legendary rockers as they blast through your neck of the woods, looking and sounding better than ever, performing a hall-of-fame catalog that only the greatest fans can sing loudly and proudly, word-for-word.
1. The Grand Illusion
2. Too Much Time on My Hands
3. Fooling Yourself
6. Man in the Wilderness
7. Light Up
8. I Am the Walrus
9. Suite Madame Blue
10. Miss America
12. Space Oddity
13. Crystal Ball
14. Keyboard Solo
15. Pieces of Eight
16. Blue Collar Man
17. Come Sail Away
18. Rockin’ the Paradise
STYX – Tommy Shaw, James “JY” Young, Lawrence Gowan, Todd Sucherman and Ricky Phillips (along with the occasional surprise appearance by original bassist Chuck Panozzo), have performed more live since ’99 than all of the previous years of its career combined. Two Super-Bowl appearances, Pollstar Box Office chart-topping tours with Def Leppard, Journey, Boston, REO Speedwagon, Bad Company (to name only a few), two more studio albums and no end in sight, STYX continues to conquer the planet, one venue at a time.
Spawned from a suburban Chicago basement in the early ‘70s, Styx would eventually transform into the virtual arena rock prototype by the late ’70s and early ’80s, due to a fondness for big rockers and soaring power ballads.
Early on, Styx’s music reflected such then-current prog rockers as Emerson, Lake & Palmer and the Moody Blues, as evidenced by such releases as 1972’s self-titled debut, 1973’s Styx II, 1974’s The Serpent Is Rising, and 1975’s Man of Miracles. While the albums (as well as non-stop touring) helped the group build a substantial following locally, Styx failed to break through to the mainstream, until a track originally from their second album, “Lady” started to get substantial airplay in late ’74 on the Chicago radio station WLS-FM. The song was soon issued as a single nationwide, and quickly shot to number six on the singles chart, as Styx II was certified gold.
By this time, however, the group had grown disenchanted with their record label, and opted to sign on with A&M for their fifth release overall, 1975’s Equinox (their former label would issue countless compilations over the years, culled from tracks off their early releases). On the eve of the tour in support of the album, original guitarist John Curulewski abruptly left the band, and was replaced by Tommy Shaw.
Shaw proved to be the missing piece of the puzzle for Styx, as most of their subsequent releases throughout the late ’70s earned at least platinum certification (1976’s Crystal Ball, 1977’s The Grand Illusion, 1978’s Pieces of Eight, and 1979’s Cornerstone), and spawned such hit singles and classic rock radio standards as “Come Sail Away,” “Renegade,” “Blue Collar Man” and “Fooling Yourself.”
The band decided that their first release of the ’80s would be a concept album, 1981’s Paradise Theater, which was loosely based on the rise and fall of a once-beautiful theater (which was supposedly used as a metaphor for the state of the U.S. at the time — the Iranian hostage situation, the Cold War, Reagan, etc.). Paradise Theater became Styx’s biggest hit of their career (selling over three million copies in a three-year period), as they became one of the U.S. top rock acts due to such big hit singles as “Too Much Time on My Hands”. It also marked the first time in history that a band released four consecutive triple-platinum albums.
A career-encompassing live album, Caught in the Act, was issued in 1984, before Styx went on hiatus, and the majority of its members pursued solo projects throughout the remainder of the decade. A re-recording of their early hit, “Lady” (titled “Lady” ’95”), for a Greatest Hits compilation, finally united Shaw with his former Styx bandmates, which led to a full-on reunion tour in 1996. But drummer John Panozzo fell seriously ill at the time (due to a long struggle with alcoholism), which prevented him from joining the proceedings — as he passed away in July of the same year.
Although grief-stricken, Styx persevered with new drummer Todd Sucherman taking the place of Panozzo, as the Styx reunion tour became a surprise sold-out success, resulting in the release of a live album/video, 1997’s “Return to Paradise,” while a whole new generation of rock fans were introduced to the grandiose sounds of Styx via a humorous car ad which used the track “Mr. Roboto,” as well as songs used in such TV shows as South Park and Freaks & Geeks.
Jun 21 Coronado Performing Arts Center Rockford, IL (tickets)
Jun 23 Centennial Terrace Toledo, OH
Jun 24 Joliet Memorial Stadium Joliet, IL (tickets)
Jun 26 Mystic Lake Casino Hotel Prior Lake, MN
Jun 28 Orpheum Theatre Wichita, KS
Jun 30 BMO Harris Pavilion Milwaukee, WI
Jul 01 Freedom Hill Amphitheatre Sterling Heights, MI
Jul 02 Silver Creek Event Center New Buffalo, MI
Jul 15 The Pacific Amphitheatre Costa Mesa, CA
Jul 16 Edgewater E Center Laughlin, NV
Jul 17 Pechanga Entertainment Center Temecula, CA
Jul 18 California Exposition & State Fair Sacramento, CA
Jul 20 Kenley Amphitheater Layton, UT
Jul 21 Clearwater River Casino Lewiston, ID
Jul 23 Chinook Winds Casino Lincoln City, OR
Jul 24 The Tulalip Amphitheatre Tulalip, WA
Aug 15 American Music Theatre Lancaster, PA
Aug 16 Artpark Mainstage Lewiston, NY
Aug 25 United Wireless Arena Dodge City, KS
Aug 27 Baxter Arena Omaha, NE
Aug 29 Red Rocks Amphitheatre** Morrison, CO
Sep 02 Horseshoe Casino’s Bluesville Robinsonville, MS
Sep 15 OC Bikefest Ocean City, MD
Sep 20 Sprint Pavilion Charlottesville, VA
Sep 22 New Jersey Performing Arts Center Newark, NJ
Sep 23 Mid Hudson Civic Center Poughkeepsie, NY
Sep 24 Sherman Theater Stroudsburg, PA
Sep 25 TOYOTA OAKDALE THEATRE Wallingford, CT
Oct 13 SKyPAC Bowling Green, KY
Oct 18 Warner Theatre Washington, DC
Oct 20 Calvin Theatre Northampton, MA
Oct 21 Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom Hampton Beach, NH
Oct 22 Twin River Event Center Lincoln, RI
Nov 10 Genesee Theatre Waukegan, IL
Jan 30 Verizon Arena North Little Rock, AR
Coronado Performing Arts Center: