CONCERT REVIEW: STYX Defies The Odds and Ages and Keeps Rocking In The Paradise – Pikes Peak Center, Colorado Springs (February 25th, 2023)

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Some of the bands I go to see live have been part of my life soundtrack for a very long time. Styx falls into that category. I first heard 1975’s “Equinox” LP in my brother’s room when I was 8 years old. By then, I had probably heard “Lady” on the radio but it was “Suite Madame Blue,” with its progressive rock heavy ending, that really got me hooked. Although “Equinox” was the fifth studio record of the band, it was still prior to the arrival of Tommy Shaw, who in my book is what made Styx something special. The following year, an 8-track of “Crystal Ball” took up residence in our family car stereo, and with it that wonderfully melancholy title track that Tommy Shaw sang and wrote.

Photo by Alan Cox

In the years to come I would purchase records of each of the subsequent blockbuster albums like “The Grand Illusion,” “Pieces of Eight,” “Cornerstone” and then the cassette of “Paradise Theatre.” Years later, I would replace the entire Styx catalog with CD versions. Now they’re on my phone. The point is to reveal just how enduring the music has been in my life; it’s lasted longer than three other musical formats. And while the critics never cared for Styx much, the Chicago band mostly made all the right moves for this listener, especially when they steered toward the heavier songs.

Dennis DeYoung is still not part of the touring band, and in all honesty, I see the band moving forward in a positive direction without him, though credit is rightfully due in recognizing that he wrote or co-wrote many of the band’s classic tunes. Much like there are those who will say Journey isn’t Journey without Steve Perry, there are fans who can’t accept Styx without DeYoung. But the band’s last two records, “The Mission” and “Crash of the Crown,” have earned places that rank quite high in the overall catalog. I believe it. And so does the band, apparently, because they played more songs from the newest record than any other album in the vast catalog during the two-set show in Colorado Springs Saturday night.

Photo by Alan Cox

As one might expect, most of the “rock essentials” were also in the set list, but the fact that the band opened each of the two sets with a track from 2021’s “Crash of the Crown” is a testament to how strongly they feel about their new music. And for a band that’s been around for over 50 years, that’s pretty astounding. Most bands that have been at it this long are mostly playing the golden oldies, but Styx performed 7 songs from their latest record, and they fit in perfectly with that classic Styx sound. Perhaps more remarkably, there was no mass run for beer or the bathroom. Shaw’s vocals on the acoustic-based “Sound the Alarm” were particularly impressive.

So about that 50 years figure…one has to acknowledge that there have been some musical chairs played during that lengthy span. For most of the show, there was only one guy on stage who can claim to be a founding member. That would be James “JY” Young, who generally was more reserved on stage than in decades past. Nevertheless, Young tapped into another gear when he fronted the rousing rocker “Miss America,” and it was strong. At age 73, and having recently lost his dear wife, Suzanne, it was not surprising that he was a bit more demure. What was surprising, however, is the spark plug energy of Tommy Shaw, who at 69 was jumping around on stage and wailing on the guitar leads like an “Angry Young Man.” His stage presence and remarkably strong vocals served to “Light Up” the crowd. Props must go out to the entire band, who vocally still can serve up incredible harmonies that were on full display on “Lady,” and “To Those.” Legend has it they are still doing it without the aid of backing vocal tracks, and that deserves extra praise. Live music, the way it should be!

Photo by Alan Cox

The set-list was full of sing-alongs, of which the mature crowd eagerly joined in, and the band sounded surprisingly energized and tight. With Lawrence Gowan now having taken DeYoung’s role on keyboards and vocals for more than two decades, this band has played many of these songs over and over, which could make them sound both tight and tired. But there were few signs of tired on stage, aside from the brief appearance of founding bass player Chuck Panozzo, who has maintained a very limited role with the band since declaring that he’s living with HIV. His replacement, Ricky Phillips, has been with the band for two decades now, and though he is 71 years old, you’d never believe it from watching him play. It’s a classy move that they give Chuck some stage time still.

The youngsters of the live act, drummer Todd Sucherman (who is absolutely amazing) and producer/writer “new guy” Will Evankovich, who has managed to conjure up the classic Styx sound on their last two releases, are keeping the spirit of the band running like a pair or “Renegades.”

Photo by Alan Cox

There’s always a fear when seeing a band that has been at it as long as Styx that they will put on a show that indicates they’ve stayed too long at the party and tarnished their legacy. But Styx with Tommy Shaw at the helm has maintained a professional standard and proven themselves to be a class act. I mention the ages of JY, Tommy and Ricky because they’ve done such a good job of not coming off as guys way past their prime. Styx is still a great live act playing a strong catalog of classics while proudly featuring new music that stands up and slots in well. Not many long running acts can say that.

The band made four stops in Colorado on this run, which is more than unusual, but ticket sales have been brisk and the fan support is still there. So regardless of whatever the critics might have to say about Styx, a couple thousand fans showed their approval on their feet all night as they were thrilled to be invited to “Come Sail Away” once more. If this is the last time they come through Colorado, I’ll be happy to have witnessed that they finished on a high note. Still worth seeing after all these years.

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1 Comment

  1. George Bollhorst on

    When there’s talent as strong as there is with STYX it shows in the production in everything the do on stage and off! Take Todd for example! Training the next generation of drummers in his Master’s Classes across the country! That’s class! Worthy of respect and honor!

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