Review & photos by John Jeffrey
Lewiston, NY - With the skies overcast and cloudy, and intermittent rain showers throughout the day in Western New York, it was hard to surmise what kind of night it would be for Styx's highly anticipated return to ArtPark's "Tuesdays in the Park" concert series. Thankfully, for the diehard Styx fans and casual music fans in attendance, the weather wound up being the most ideal conditions you could ask for, for an outdoor concert. It was truly the perfect scenario, as Styx drew one of the biggest crowds to Artpark this year and played a courageously diverse set list, which was very impressive, coming from what most people refer to as a 'nostalgia' or 'heritage' act.
Although the band didn't perform any new material, they certainly didn't deliver a cut & paste "greatest hits" setlist, which is something of a common occurrence for many of Styx's musical peers, and many shows you might see performed throughout the summer at Artpark.
Styx hit the stage at 8pm with their trademark mix of synthesizers and guitars, unveiling “The Grand Illusion,” much to the delight of the near (if not full) capacity crowd. The current lineup of Styx has now outlasted any other lineup in the history of the band, as the last change in the ranks was when bassist Ricky Phillips, formerly of the Babys and Bad English, joined the band in 2003, replacing Glen Burtnik, who replaced original bassist Chuck Panozzo in 1999. However, Chuck Panozzo has remained a member of Styx, and still plays a limited role in the band, as he joined the group during the third song of the night, "Fooling Yourself," and appeared again later on in the show during “Come Sail Away” and all of the encores. It really was a treat to see Panozzo make an appearance (he’s been part-time in the band since announcing in 2001 that he is living with HIV), as Phillips remains onstage with Panozzo and the rest the group, playing rhythm guitar and (at different parts in the show) also performing the role of a secondary bassist. The diehard Styx fans know how special it is when they see Panozzo perform, as he only appears at select shows, due to his health restrictions.
Speaking of the diehard Styx fans, they couldn't have been any happier with the set list the band pulled out on this tour. Playing such rarities as "Lights," and giving keyboardist Lawrence Gowan even more time in the spotlight, as in addition to the songs he normally sings lead on, he performed his solo hit (now adopted by Styx), "A Criminal Mind" and sang lead on a cover of the Beatles classic, "I Am a Walrus," which they recorded on their 'Big Bang Theory' album from 2005. Another cover the band performed was a great version of “Space Oddity,” where Gowan and Tommy Shaw shared lead vocals, as they beautifully nailed the harmonies throughout the song. The David Bowie tribute dovetailed into “Crystal Ball,” a song which truly showcases Tommy Shaw's talents as a lead vocalist and lead guitarist, and also happens to be on the first album he recorded with Styx in 1976. As much as their diehard fans appreciate the band, it was clear on this song that the band appreciates their fans as well, as Shaw spotted a beautiful blonde fan near the front stage, singing all the words of the song on her tip toes, and for most of the song, Shaw locked eyes with this fan and sang the song almost exclusively to her.
When the band ended the show with their classic, "Renegade, it seemed as though the crowd couldn't have been any happier with the concert. However, on the way out, I spoke with several fans which I would classify as "casual fans," and some of them voiced their displeasure with the band's song selection. Some fans were disappointed that the group did not perform "Babe," but ironically enough, one of the people who mentioned missing hearing that song, also did not realize that Dennis DeYoung was not onstage with band and hasn't been in Styx since before the beginning of this millennium.
Although I would consider myself more of a "casual fan" as opposed to a "diehard," I think it's great that the band chose to change it up a little. Considering everything they played sounded like Styx, and more importantly, it all sounded great, who cares if you don't know the lyrics to all of the songs?
The Grand Illusion
Too Much Time on My Hands
Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)
Man in the Wilderness
Space Oddity(David Bowie)
I Am the Walrus(Beatles)
A Criminal Mind
Suite Madame Blue
Blue Collar Man
Medley - 1999(Prince)/Bohemian Rhapsody(Queen)/The Dock of the Bay(Otis Redding)
Come Sail Away
Rockin’ the Paradise
Special thank you to Amanda Cagan and Maria Hays for providing RMS with press credentials.