The crowd erupted as Styx took the stage, keyboardist/singer Lawrence Gowan playing the familiar chords that begin “Blue Collar Man,” guitarist James “J.Y.” Young and his blue Fender Stratocaster and the forever young, guitarist Tommy Shaw (he may be the only 1970’s rock star that can still pull off wearing leather) quickly joining in with their dual guitar power chords. To get an entire Phoenix classic rock audience up dancing and clapping from the opening number is a testament to the energy that Styx brought from the outset. Shaw had no problem in convincing those in attendance to sing and properly clap along to “Too Much Time on My Hands,” his long blonde locks needing no wind machine on this windy, cool afternoon to blow his hair in proper arena rock band fashion.
Although many Styx fans became so due to 1977’s Grand Illusion and 1978’s Pieces of Eight albums, 1975’s Equinox was nicely represented with the James Young sung “Lorelei,” and the epic “Suite Madame Blue,” which brought those that had been sitting back up to their feet. Sandwiched in between was “Man in the Wilderness,” introduced by Shaw when discussing how creating a Styx album was “all about the album,” and not just stringing together hit singles. It was the lone album cut during the day that wasn’t a hit single for Styx.
Vocally, the members of Styx were on their game, Young and Shaw hitting the high notes required of them and Gowan putting his own fine twist on the Dennis DeYoung sung tunes. Gowan has become as much of a front man for Styx as anyone, often leaving his rotating keyboard to deliver vocals mid-stage and performing the occasional rock show leaps. As the rest of the band left the stage for a brief break, Gowan was given the task of keeping the audience entertained and did so admirably with his versions of the lyrically challenged work in progress “Arizona,” the piano solo from “Layla” and his command of his “mind melding machine” aka his microphone, singing opening stanzas of famous songs and having the crowd respond with the follow up line. No surprise that this led into everyone singing “Come Sail Away,” with the band members highly energized in their return to the stage.
Not to take anything away from the extremely talented drumming of Todd Sucherman and the solid bass work of ex Bad English member Ricky Phillips, but it was nice to see founding Styx member Chuck Panozzo join the band for “Fooling Yourself,” and sticking around for “Come Sail Away,” and “Renegade.” Health reasons keep Panozzo from full time touring put his presence seems welcome by the other band members.
As if the audience hadn’t been whipped up enough by the ninety minute set Styx delivered, the encore of “Rockin’ the Paradise,” and “Renegade,” showed that fans of all ages not only could dance to the music, but knew the lyrics as well. On a rare, cool, Arizona spring day, Styx brought the heat. It might now even be okay to admit you bought a new Styx tour shirt.
Photo Credit: Becky Hansen