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Styx "patient" review

“The Grand Illusion/Pieces Of Eight” Tour
The Lowell Memorial Auditorium - Lowell, Massachusetts
November 3, 2010

By Patrick Moreau

   On November 3rd, Styx came into town to play two of their most popular albums, The Grand Illusion and Pieces of Eight, live. Personally, Paradise Theater is my favorite, but would you want to miss this?

   From 5th row center we had the perfect view. The projector comes on and you see a "Star Wars" crawl explaining what was going on in 1977 and 1978. Yes, the music is that old. A teenager goes through his record collection and pulls out The Grand Illusion. He puts it on the record player, puts the needle on the record, the band comes on stage and starts rockin' the Auditorium. The first song off G.I. is sung by keyboardist Lawrence Gowan, whose voice and playing does more than a serviceable fill in for Dennis DeYoung. The next thing I noticed was the rhythm section of Ricky Phillips and Todd Sucherman on bass and drums, respectively. They handled the changes like they've been playing them for years. Next came guitarist James "J.Y." Young playing a mean strat, and the man himself playing the Gibson, Tommy Shaw.

When they finished the first side of the album, Tommy asked the crowd, What do you do with an album? "You flip it over," they responded. In between songs J.Y. told the crowd what their plan was tonight - to play these albums live and in there entirety - which was a trick because "some of the songs we have never played live, so we had to practice." You could almost read OMG off J.Y.'s face. Before Tommy started "Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)," he told us what it was like joining Styx in 1975! They were opening for Kansas and he was blown away. A long way from Alabama. After seeing the way they played, "everything crystallized into what I wanted to do." Before we knew it The Grand Illusion was finished, but the show was not over.

   Time for intermission.

   What struck me during the intermission was overhearing people say things like, "They're better now than when I saw them 30 years ago." What surprised me was seeing people in their 20's wearing Styx concert shirts. How's that for a fashion statement?

   Then the band came back on stage. The Pieces of Eight album is just as strong as G.I. My personal favorites were "Renegade" and "I'm O.K." There are more hits on the album, and "Renegade" is most popular, but I always thought "I'm O.K." was one of the most underrated songs in their catalog. It was cool to hear it live. Gowan deserves another round of applause for his performance.

   Then came the encore. They did a cover of The Beatles' "I Am The Walrus." The song was accompanied by a video showing the band plus bassist Chuck Panozzo, who is unable to play on a regular basis due to illness. Last song of the night. Tommy asks his audience, "Do you want to hear one more?" Of course we do. Out came "Too Much Time On My Hands" from my favorite Styx album, Paradise Theater.

This was a real fan's night.

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