Whenever there is a discussion on Rock & Roll Hall of Fame snubs, Styx is usually one of the first bands mentioned. Over the past 50 years the band has created some of the most iconic music of the classic rock era. With all this history, it would be easy for the band to rest on past accomplishments, however, on Saturday, May 13, Styx proved they are no nostalgia act, they are a vibrant, explosive, modern live act that can rival any band that takes the stage.
Prior to 2017’s The Mission, Styx had gone 12 years without a studio record. In a recent conversation with vocalist and keyboardist Lawrence Gowan, he explained that the changing music and touring business was a main factor in this absence. The Mission proved that Styx still had something to say and still had the ability to create high quality music. The follow-up, 2021’s Crash of the Crown, solidified that Styx is more than a legacy act. Almost as though they are trying to show that their recent output ranks up with their classic past, the band opened the show with “To Those” from Crash of the Crown. The set would see a total of 4 songs from that record played, the same number as from their masterpiece The Grand Illusion.
If you follow the band, you know that only guitarist James “JY” Young remains a full-time member of the original lineup. Classic-era guitarist/vocalist Tommy Shaw is still in the band and is joined by Gowan, drummer Todd Sucherman, and bassist Ricky Phillips, all of whom have been in the band for more than two decades. The newest member, guitarist/producer Will Evankovich joined the band in 2021. Original bassist Chuck Panozzo joins the band for a few songs each night. This lineup is road-seasoned and brings an energetic, fun performance reminiscent of bands half their age.
Lawrence Gowan serves as the focal point of the live performance. With his rotating keyboard, powerhouse vocals, and magnetic charisma, you can’t take your eyes off of him during the hour and forty-minute set. Nearly 25 years ago, Gowan had the unenviable task of replacing the legendary Dennis DeYoung in Styx. While he may play the same instrument and sing the same songs, Gowan is certainly his own person when it comes to performing. His spotlight pieces from the last two records, “Khedive” and “Lost at Sea” show that he is an accomplished musician, while his personality and commanding stage presence come through in classics like “Rocking The Paradise”.
Tommy Shaw is simply an ageless wonder. His vocals are absolutely stunning. From slower, epic pieces like “Crystal Ball” to the hard rocking “Too Much Time On My Hands”, Tommy Shaw at 69 years old sounds just as good as he did at 29 years old. One of the evening’s highlights saw Shaw bring out his banjo for the 2021 cut “Our Wonderful Lives”, a song that is sure to become a staple of the band’s live set for years to come.
Original bassist Chuck Panozzo now has a limited role with the band, former bassist of The Babys and Bad English, Ricky Phillips handles most of the work on bass. Panozzo joined the band for “Lady”, “Our Wonderful Lives”, “Fooling Yourself”, “Lost At Sea”, “Come Sail Away”, and the final encore track of the night, “Renegade”. Seeing Panozzo upfront with JY and Shaw provides a great bridge from the classic 70s-80s lineup to the current version of the band.
An evening with Styx is everything a rock show should be. It’s high energy, it’s a great mix of familiar classics and less familiar, sure-to-be classics, it’s a collection of fantastic musicians all playing and singing live, and most of all, it’s fun. After 50 years this band still takes the stage like a gang of hungry kids out to prove their worth, on this night, they proved it in spades.