By Brian M. Howle
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. The band – founded by brothers Chuck and John Panozzo – was heavily influenced by lead vocalist and keyboard wiz Dennis DeYoung, who wrote almost all of the lyrics along with most of the music. James Young’s distinctive guitar style complimented the style, along with guitarist John Curulewski.
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.
On the eve of the tour in support of 1975’s Equinox, 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.”
1981’s 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.
Styx went on hiatus until a full-on reunion tour in 1996. But drummer John Panozzo fell seriously ill at the time, 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 a whole new generation of rock fans being introduced to the grandiose sounds of Styx.
Now comprised of original members Tommy Shaw and James “JY” Young on guitars/vocals, along with Lawrence Gowan on keys and lead vocals, Todd Sucherman on drums and Ricky Phillips on bass (along with the occasional surprise appearance by original bassist Chuck Panozzo), Styx continues to conquer the planet, one venue at a time.
Recently, the band released Styx: The Grand Illusion/Pieces Of Eight Live DVD (Eagle Rock Entertainment). The landmark concert was recorded November 9, 2010 at the historic Orpheum Theater in Memphis, on the tour that saw Styx perform both of their classic albums, The Grand Illusion and Pieces Of Eight, in their entirety for the first time. The 20-song, two-hour and 11-minute presentation features stunning high-definition visuals accenting the complex musical arrangements recorded in DTS-HD Master Audio, Dolby Digital 5.1, and LPCM Stereo.
“This is the most magnificent piece of video we’ve done,” proclaims guitarist James “JY” Young. “Our two biggest selling albums performed live in their entirety, all captured in state-of-the-art high definition is something we’re extremely proud of. The collective skill set of the people involved in this project rivals NASA in its heyday.”
As singer/guitarist Tommy Shaw continues, “We loved creating a show around these two albums. It was a joyful challenge to match the mojo of the songs we’ve been playing for years against the edgier newness of the ones that had not been performed since the day they were recorded. And because the songs were sequenced for the album listener, it made for a completely different experience for the fans.”
Here’s the Styx: The Grand Illusion/Pieces Of Eight Live DVD track listing:
2) The Grand Illusion
3) Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)
5) Come Sail Away
6) Miss America
7) Man In The Wilderness
8) Castle Walls
9) The Grand Finale
10) Great White Hope
11) I’m Okay
12) Sing For The Day
13) The Message
14) Lords Of The Ring
15) Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)
16) Queen Of Spades
18) Keyboard Interlude
19) Pieces Of Eight
Oh, you’ll want to make sure to get there early to catch opening band Connor Christian & Southern Gothic. They wouldn’t be opening for these boys unless they were good, kids … so get there early and check out these kids as well.
Rock to the Rescue—spearheaded by Tommy Shaw’s daughter, Hannah–is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization founded by the band, whose mission is to build strong, healthy communities through the support of grassroots organizations across the country. It was founded on the principle that our communities are stronger when we work together in mutual aid. Having played over 1500 shows in the last 14 years, Styx has been strongly connected with communities across the country. With local fans and community members making an effort to join in support of Styx, it is important to the band to actively participate in these communities as well. At each tour date, Rock to the Rescue partners with a local group to give back through community outreach, fundraising, and volunteer support. What makes Rock to the Rescue unique is that they work on a grassroots level with small groups, giving real support to real individuals who are creating positive changes in their communities. Rock to the Rescue is building initiatives in the areas of music education, health and well-being, disaster relief and aid, and animal welfare and rescue.
At each tour stop, Hannah Shaw researches local nonprofit organizations and picks one to see if they are interested in volunteering to help the band sell $10 tickets for a drawing to win a signed Styx guitar at the shows. They give these organizations a percentage of the sales as their way of supporting their cause and thanking them for supporting the band’s cause.
You can find out more about Hannah’s work, as well as all about the band, their schedule, history, photos and official Styx merchandise at their official website: www.styxworld.com.
The stage at House Of Blues was made for a show like this, as WYAV 104.1 FM presents Styx rocking out our own Paradise on Saturday, February 16, with opening act Connor Christian & Southern Gothic. Doors open 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $32.00 Advance; $35.00 Day of Show.
For info on all shows, call 843-272-3000; for tickets call 1-877-598-8497; or visit http://www.livenation.com .
This article was also published in Alternatives NewsMagazine, Jan. 24, 2013 http://www.myrtlebeachalternatives.com .