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Concert review: Styx proves to Scottsdale audience that they’re more than ok

Spoiler alert. If you’re one of those individuals that believe Styx became its own tribute band once Dennis DeYoung stopped performing with the group, then read no further. You won’t like it when I say that his replacement, Lawrence Gowan, keyboard player and vocalist for Styx since 1999, is entertaining, energetic and is one heck of a singer. Nor may you want to hear that Styx is still a great live band as they proved Sunday night, November 18 at the Talking Stick Resort Ballroom in Scottsdale. Given the reaction of those in the standing room only crowd that night, it’s doubtful that they thought any different as Styx blasted through a ninety minute set of their greatest hits.

Styx had the audience in their hands from the outset. Whether the members of Styx fed off the energy of the audience or the audience fed off the energy of Styx, the opening number, “Blue Collar Man,” got things going quickly. With the frenzied crowd standing and dancing, guitarists Tommy Shaw and James “JY” Young, played to both sides of the stage as well as engaged in some duel guitar choreography. Shaw’s lead vocals were strong and the harmonies were what you would expect to hear from Styx. Gowan and his spinning keyboard set, was animated.

Things kept going strong with “The Grand Illusion” and “Too Much Time on My Hands.” “Shall we have ourselves a rock show?” yelled out Shaw to the audience between numbers. With the crowd still on their feet, having clapped, danced and sang to each song, the answer was a resounding, “yes.” It’s not often that a Scottsdale classic rock audience will stand throughout a show. This night, for all but a couple numbers, the audience bucked that trend. Credit Styx for bringing them to and keeping them on their feet.

Although a good portion of the evening’s set list came from Styx’s 1977’s “Grand Illusion” and 1978’s “Pieces of Eight” albums, some of Styx’s earlier efforts were equally well received. Styx’s first big hit, the 1973 single, “Lady,” had one “lady” jump up from the audience onto the stage and exchange a brief dance moment with Gowan. Young’s vocals as well as the group’s harmonies were a highlight of “Lorelei.” Later in the evening, Shaw did honor to one of his first compositions for Styx, “Crystal Ball.”

After thirteen years with the group, it’s no surprise that Gowan shares the spotlight with Shaw and Young. He often leaves his rotating keyboard to deliver vocals, using the entire stage to spread his message. This evening, he was even more singled out as the band members paid homage to his upcoming birthday by delivering on to the stage a cake and leading the crowd in “Happy Birthday.”

Gowan made the crowd sing some more with his concert staple rock medley where Gowan bangs out the first few notes of a popular song and then has the audience complete the verse. Although the crowd did better on “Happy Birthday,” than they did for “Ruby Tuesday,” “Sweet Dreams,” or “Fat Bottomed Girls,” the effort was there and enthusiastic.

Less recognized, but equally important to Styx are ex Bad English bass player Ricky Phillips and drummer Todd Sucherman. Sucherman impressively pounded away all night. His energy is almost exhausting to watch. Phillips too was energetic, often climbing the stairs at the back of the stage and delivering solid harmonies.

Founding Styx member Chuck Panozzo joined the band for “Fooling Yourself,” and stuck around for “Come Sail Away,” and “Renegade.” Health reasons keep Panozzo from doing a full set with the band, but his attendance was welcome by the audience.

For the regular set closer, the crowd was well ready for “Come Sail Away.” Much like “South Park’s” Eric Cartman, those in attendance couldn’t help but finish the song themselves once it started and the members of Styx were happy to help. Shaw and Young blazed solos, Sucherman was manic behind his kit and everyone on stage and off looked to be having the time of their lives.

For the encore, Styx had confetti and streamers fall from the rafters as they did “Rockin’ the Paradise.” The night closed with “Renegade,” the audience once again participating with precision hand clapping for the song’s slow opening and then the required head bobbing for the climatic finish.

This was the third time Styx had played in Arizona in the last seven months. Yet both the audience and the members of Styx were as energetic as if this was Styx’s first visit in years. Given such enthusiasm on both parts, Styx is welcome to come back as many times as they like.

Set list: Blue Collar Man (Long Nights) | The Grand Illusion | Too Much Time on My Hands | Lady | Lorelei | Man In the Wilderness | I’m OK | Crystal Ball | Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man | Miss America | Lawrence Gowan Medley | Come Sail Away | Encore: Rockin’ the Paradise | Renegade

View slideshow: Styx in concert, November 18, 2012, Scottsdale, Arizona

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