With each passing year the list of icons of rock’s early days still manning the stage and bringing this now vintage sonic expression to the masses grows thinner. Even when considering the peak of the genre’s foray into experimental territory with the rise of 70s progressive rock and the subsequent arena craze that it unintentionally influenced, such noteworthy progenitors like Rush have scattered to the four winds, while American staples like Boston soldier on with maybe one or two original members of the fold still in congress. But the final word on the scene that stretched the definition of rock music to its absolute limit has yet to be uttered, especially considering that one of the style’s most successful and enduring act Styx is still making the rounds. Now with frequent touring mates REO Speedwagon and 80s hard/synth rock darlings Loverboy in tow for what has been dubbed the Live and UnZoomed Tour, the good old days of big melodies and big keyboards will reach the masses once more in this post-pandemic climate.
For their part, Calgary natives Loverboy turned in a solid series of familiar 80s radio rock staples effortlessly despite looking far different today than when their music videos were burning up everyone’s picture tubes on MTV. Vocalist Mike Reno, still donning his signature headband and all of the energy that one could expect a man in his late 60s to muster, retained the soaring tenor that made him a fixture of the days when video killed the radio star. In similar fashion, all the original members of the fold still in attendance recalled their past roles seamlessly while more recently recruited bassist Ken Sinnaeve continued to fill the shoes of the dearly departed Scott Smith on the bass as he has since 2001. The crowd response would prove consistently enthusiastic through their entire eight song cycle of rock radio hits, with the high points being the last two in “Turn Me Loose” and ubiquitous banger “Working For The Weekend” respectively.
Co-headliner and glorified fence-sitter between hard and soft rock REO Speedwagon would proceed to follow their comparatively younger opening act in like fashion and upped the ante considerably, inspiring throngs of attendees young and old to sing-along with their hook-driven brand of arena fanfare. Of particular note was the power and impact of the arrangement, with the soaring melodic expressions of lead guitarist Dave Amato’s rousing solos complementing the dense choral passages at each refrain in a manner that all but stood in for the lead vocal.
For his part, front man Kevin Cronin handled the generally high and flashy singing standard that he set for himself over 40 years ago on this outfit’s 1980 breakout album “Hi Infidelity” at the age of 70, somewhat struggling with some high notes during the early numbers of the set, but proving quick on the uptake and turning in a very solid performance with radio favorites “Keep On Loving You”, “Take It On The Run” and “Can’t Fight This Feeling” drawing the strongest crowd participation.
But if there is one band that could follow any impressive succession of classic rock staples, it would be Chicago-born progressive rock maestros Styx. With an explosive light show and elaborate stage set to match the auditory extravaganza that is par for the course for this outfit, the assortment of original members of the fold and newer additions would proceed to recreate material from their 70s heyday and two most recent LPs as if they were miming to a playback of the original studio tracks.
Though there were no slouches among the six (sometimes seven when accounting for original bassist Chuck Panozzo joining in during various numbers) who rocked the stage, two dueling front men in guitarist/vocalist Tommy Shaw and keyboardist/vocalist Lawrence Gowan emerged to lead the proverbial charge, the former commanding the greatest audience response on classic rocking bangers “Blue Collar Man” and set closer “Renegade”, while the latter proved a near perfect impersonator of original member Dennis DeYoung save the slightly gravely Scottish tinge on his rousing renditions of “Come Sail Away” and “Mr. Roboto”. But the collective whole would truly make this performance one for the ages between the dense vocal arrangements and intricate interplay between the instrumentation.
Only God and the members of each band that gave their all on the evening of June 19th in West Palm Beach, Florida can truly testify to what was going through their minds as they gazed out into the sea of thousands of sonically starved rock music trustees who had not heard from them in a live setting in over 2 years. But one thing that goes without saying is that despite how many years have passed since these artists first struck a chord with the masses, the demand for more has not decreased to any measurable degree. Though only the headliner has proven prolific enough in the studio in recent years to feature a sizable share of newer material to complement the classics, the relevance of what these bands have accomplished has not been lost on the multitudes that continue to pour in for the only drug that has no quantifiable downside. Rockers may come and go, but rock is very much here to stay, and with the floodgates having been thrown open once more in 2022, who knows what greatness, from sources young or old, may lay down the road