Review/photos by Thomas S. Orwat Jr.
Lewiston, NY - This evening certainly was the best of times for rock music lovers in the WNY and Southern Ontario area. The legendary, multi-platinum superstar band, STYX, played an extraordinary 90-minute set in front of an appreciative sold out crowd of 10,000 plus. This was the second last concert for the incredible summer season of "Tuesdays in the Park," at the award-winning Artpark. It seems like each week, the shows get better and better, and the performance this week by STYX was no exception; it was absolutely brilliant!
STYX, which consists of classic line-up members: Tommy Shaw - guitar/vocals, and James Young - guitar/vocals, along with Canadian progressive rock superstar, Lawrence Gowan - keyboards/vocals, Todd Sucherman - drums, and Ricky Phillips - bass, started the evening right at 8 pm, as the Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again," was played over the PA right before they hit the stage.
James Young was the first to enter the stage, and with an eye-to-eye grin, as he pointed towards the audience, a gesture insinuating to them to hold on to their hats, because they are about to get rocked! And that is exactly what happened for the next hour and a half. The other members of the band entered the stage to the roaring of the crowd, and quickly started the show with one of the greatest songs of their catalog, "The Grand Illusion." Vocalist/ keyboardist, Lawrence Gowan, with his spinning keyboard, did an outstanding job on this track, along with all of tracks originally sung by ex-STYX vocalist/keyboardist, Dennis DeYoung. Gowan has been in the band since 1999, and many feel that his hiring brought more energy into the band, and in addition, brought some progressive elements back into their music.
The band performed a rarely played song, "Lights," early into their set. James Young explained that the band has hardly played it in the last 25 years. He then asked the crowd to use whatever they had to create lights in the audience. A vast majority participated by holding their cell phones in they air as Tommy Shaw took his acoustic guitar, stepped up the mic, and started to play this previously lost treasure.
Midway through the set, James Young stepped up for his hard-rocking song, "Miss America." This is a great song, but takes on a whole new level of intensity live. It was a little surreal seeing, a group of 50+ year-old women flashing the metal horns, and screaming the words back to James during this song. He flashed that smart ass grin in approval in their direction.
Young, along with Shaw, displayed some blistering duo guitar-playing on this song, along with several others during the evening. The Young/Shaw guitar tandem never really received the recognition that it deserved. But, this duo really is one of the best in rock music and has been for years.
Tommy Shaw explained before the song, "Crystal Ball," that he and bassist, Ricky Phillips, had just poured buckets of ice water on their heads for the ALS ice bucket challenge before the show. Shaw then explained that time got away from him, and he wasn't able to fix his hair. He then asked the audience if his hair looked alright; they responded with a cheer of approval. He also stated that he couldn't believe that he, and so many in the audience, survived after all these years of partying.
In addition to the expected classic songs, STYX also played an interesting cover of the Beatles’ "I Am the Walrus." Gowan, who sang lead vocals on this track, surprisingly sounded a lot like John Lennon. STYX covered this track on their 2005 cover song CD, ‘The Big Bang Theory.’ The band has played this song live many times before, but they had an enthusiasm that was noticeably genuine when performing it on this particular evening.
Towards the end of the evening, Gowan sat at his keyboard for a spotlight solo in which he played segments from some of the greatest rock songs ever: "You Can't Always Get What You Want," "Live & Let Die," and "Bohemian Rhapsody." He is a dynamic performer, and has a very likable personality.
The band then went into a crowd-pleasing, high-energy, and note-for-note perfected version of "Come Sail Away." Gowan killed it again on this one. Also, the spot-on harmonies of Shaw/Young/Phillips were so good, it was spine tingling.
The band then left the stage, and came back for an encore consisting of "Rockin' the Paradise," with confetti filling the air, and then their final song of the evening, "Renegade."
On this evening, STYX provided an extremely entertaining musical journey, filled with timeless and classic songs. While the songs brought back happy memories, the concert provided a new and fresh moment of clarity, underlining what a truly sensational live act Styx is today, in 2014.
Special thanks to Maria Hays, Amanda Cagen and Dana Kaiser.