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Styx
February 12, 2019
Rialto Square Theatre
Joliet, Illinois


I knew what I was in for. 
I had literally seen it dozens of times before.
I was going to hear “Come Sail Away” and “Renegade”. Tommy Shaw would kick and jump and run all over. Lawrence Gowan would stand atop his rotating cockpit and play keyboard runs with his back to the keys. Todd Sucherman would rattle my pant legs with his bombastic bass drums. It all happened just as I knew it would, which is why I go out of my way to get to a Styx show whenever they’re within a 6 hour road trip. No matter how many times I see this band, as I walk out of the venue after a performance I’m already craving the next encounter.  

I’ve seen hundreds and hundreds (if not thousands) of concerts in my lifetime, and I’ve seen many of those bands on multiple occasions, but it’s rare to see a band as consistent as Styx. Whether it’s on a 2,000-seat theater stage, a 20,000-seat arena stage, or on a platform next to an ice skating rink, this band delivers flawlessly almost every single time. This two set show at the historic Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet, Illinois was no different.

The band kicked off their first set with “Gone Gone Gone,” the lead track from their latest studio record The Mission. The lyric “Light it up, let’s get this show on the road” was the pacesetter for a raucous rock show. The one thing I am always pleased with with this band is their ability to “supercharge” everything for the live setting. With Todd Sucherman’s almost violent thunder underneath everything, the band emits an electricity that can be felt on the walls of the venue. Listening to songs like “Lady” or “Man In The Wilderness” in your living room may not come over as overly intense or heavy, but when this band delivers those songs on stage they are spine-tingling. With singer Lawrence Gowan shuffling across the stage belting out “Lady” lyrics, and Tommy Shaw and JY doing the matching twin lead solo in “Man In The Wilderness,” waves of numbness wash over me every time. I’ve had people back away from me while the band plays “Man In The Wilderness” because it appears that I’m in the throes of a seizure. It’s a rock and roll seizure, and it’s one that I’ll gladly succumb to whenever I see this band.



I think much of this particular audience was shocked by the intensity coming from the stage. The applause was large when Shaw asked who was seeing Styx for the first time, and it appeared they were expecting something driven by a softer sound. Very rarely do I see an audience seated at a Styx concert, but this crowd gave it a try. When the band began playing things from The Mission they thought they’d take a seat, only to find that songs like “Radio Silence” and “The Outpost” were just as powerful as the classics. The crowd would then rise again. This went on throughout the performance like some kind of rock and roll mass. 


The Mission was well represented, with the band playing half the album by the end of the evening. But, honestly, I was hoping for even more. The band had just played the album in its entirety in Las Vegas, and they are thinking about repeating it in the future for more audiences. The songs on The Mission were a perfect fit with the classic stuff in the set, and I would’ve warmly welcomed anything else they might’ve played. 

Some of the highlights for me on the evening came near the beginning of the second set when the band played “Lights” from their 1979 release, Cornerstone. I love hearing the stuff that you don’t regularly think about. I know that playing “Lights” and not playing something like “The Best Of Times” doesn’t sit just right with a lot of folks, but it is one of the main reasons that I enjoy seeing this band so much. They’re not your mama’s Styx. They don’t play things because they feel they “have to,” or at least it doesn’t feel that way. Nothing gets “phoned in,” and every note is delivered with fire and passion. “Light Up”…. “Man In The Wilderness”…. “Lights”…. These are all songs you’ll hear because the band is vested in them and their hearts are in it.

And perhaps the biggest treat for the diehard Styx fan is to hear Tommy Shaw add his “lost verse” to “Crystal Ball.” This verse was originally cut from the song to allow for a more radio friendly running time, but it’s a verse that wraps up the legendary song in a beautiful big bow. It really puts a dramatic final touch to the tune and it gives me a chill every time I hear it. (Consider this my open letter to you, Tommy. I’m on my knees begging - please, please re-record the song the way it was originally planned.) 
As always, some of the biggest fun comes when the spotlight is trained on Lawrence Gowan and his keyboard. Seeing him play “Khedive,” the piano instrumental from The Mission, is a sight to behold. Try moving your fingers that fast without a keyboard underneath them and you quickly realize the magnitude of Gowan’s immense talent. After galloping through “Khedive” he shares his warm personality and sense of humor, while leading the crowd on a sing-along of Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Playing the piano riff for “Come Sail Away” immediately after those two legendary songs reminds you just how legendary and iconic the nautical Styx track is. 

The recent addition of the controversial “Mr. Roboto” is still something I’m getting used to. Hearing this lineup sing “Secret, secret, I’ve got a secret” is a bit uncomfortable for me. But, like everything else, they play it with conviction and honesty. It’s a beefier version of the song you know from the Kilroy Was Here album, which gives it an ominous, almost evil overtone. 

As it has been for decades now, this Styx performance wrapped up with their classic from the Pieces Of Eight record, “Renegade.” With confetti canons exploding at the same moment as the band exploded into the song, it was abundantly clear that Styx continues to relish their amped up energy level. With drummer Todd Sucherman the only member of the band that isn’t over 62 years of age, these guys move and play like they’re in their 20’s. When you might be planning to see a retirement tour with any other band, with Styx you can plan on them ripping up stages of all kinds for many years to come.  



SETLIST

Overture/Gone Gone Gone
Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)
The Grand Illusion
Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)
Lady
Radio Silence
Lorelei
Man in the Wilderness
Light Up
The Outpost
Rockin' the Paradise

——INTERMISSION——

Miss America
Lights
Crystal Ball
Hundred Million Miles From Home
Trouble at the Big Show
Too Much Time on My Hands
Khedive
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road/Bohemian Rhapsody
Come Sail Away

——ENCORE——

Mr. Roboto
Renegade

--------------------------------------------



Mission Accomplished: 
Touching Base With Lawrence Gowan
Speaking with Lawrence Gowan is like having a conversation with a brother I only see a few times a year. We catch up on family and the kids, and then we talk about our love for music, particularly Styx music. In this conversation we discuss the concert at the Rialto Square Theatre two days prior, and what the current tour holds for him and the band. We also had the chance to discuss a new solo record that's waiting to be released, and the special day that he considers the pinnacle of his time with Styx.

Click the play button below to hear our entire unedited conversation!


 

00:00 - 06:16  Greetings and family talk. Lawrence discusses the many successes of his son Dylan.
06:17 - 09:23  Lawrence talks about playing the historic organ before soundcheck at the Rialto Square Theatre.
9:24 - 17:19  People seeing Styx for the first time will definitely be paying extra attention to you, “the new guy,” to hear how you sound doing those classic Styx songs. Does that keep it fresh for you, or does that get annoying?
17:20 - 24:50  Lawrence discusses Mr. Roboto and how the band discussed doing the song.
24:51 - 28:20  Lawrence discusses releasing his new solo album.
28:21 - 29:43  Other than “A Criminal Mind,” which you’ve already performed with Styx, which of your solo songs do you think would best fit the Styx setlist?

“The pinnacle of my time in the band was in Las Vegas on January 20, 2019.”

29:44 - 34:45  How was it playing The Mission all the way through? Lawrence discusses the Styx catalog and how The Mission fits with the classics.
34:46 - 36:32 Talk about fans seeing Styx over and over.
36:33 - 38:02  How do you make the decision to do two sets as opposed to one?
38:03 - 39:39  What’s the worst part about being a member of Styx?
39:40 - 40:46  Any chance of re-recording “Crystal Ball” with the extra “lost verse”?
40:47 - 42:29  I know you’re a fan of other bands. What bands are you listening to now?
42:30 - 45:04  Do you see Styx doing more of the multiple headliner shows like you did with Tesla and Def Leppard?
45:05 - 49:14  Discussing the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and what it might be like to be left out of an induction.
49:15 - END  Lawrence talks about his relationship with the fans.


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