Show Review: Styx at the Regency Ballroom, 1/17/10

by Gordon Elgart on January 18, 2010

Up close and personal with the legends.

Styx gets a bad rap. They’re one of those punch-line bands that people claim to like ironically. This is both unfair and stupid. There’s a subset of great classic rock bands that are being kept out of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for having the gall to be too popular. Along with Journey, Kiss, Rush, Boston and Chicago, it seems that success and longevity have worked against them. No matter, though, because an evening with Styx is what rock n’ roll is really all about.

When you talk about Styx, you talk about a band of veteran professional musicians who know what they’re doing. The show starts on time, and ends on time. The band throws dozens of picks into the audience, some drum heads, a few beach balls, and even a reusable grocery bag (hey, it’s a green world these days). The set is chock full of hits, and they never even played “our new song.” Give the crowd what they want, and they’ll keep coming back.

This show was originally supposed to be at The Warfield, which has a far bigger capacity than the Regency Ballroom. Combine Sunday night with an expensive ticket and the current state of the economy, and you have a poor selling show. Because of this, you had a smaller crowd, but one with a heck of a lot of enthusiasm.

This enthusiasm was needed because the now 11-year replacement for Dennis DeYoung, Lawrence Gowan, was sick. From the first line of “Grand Illusion,” this was obvious, and he admitted as much. He asked for help with “Lady” and got it. For “Lorelei,” James Young took the lead vocal, which I don’t think is their standard way of doing it. At one point in the show, Gowan joked that “I can’t sing now, but in half an hour or so, the medicine will kick in.” I think it did, because by the time the show got to the rousing performance of “Come Sail Away,” some of the oomph had definitely returned.

The lineup of Styx is surprisingly consistent for a band that’s been around as long as they have. Although they have a regular touring bass player, founding member Chuck Panozzo even came out to play a few songs with the band. James “JY” Young and Tommy Shaw are the de facto leaders of this particular incarnation which has been touring unchanged for about seven years straight. Their life is clearly lived on the road, going from one town to the other. Tommy Shaw even had a big piece of paper at his feet that said “SAN FRANCISCO” in large type. This was to help him when he would say things like “we love you San Francisco!” and “Sing it San Francisco!” (When the next few shows are in Chandler, Rancho Mirage and Temecula, it must be nice to have a familiar city name to belt out.)

When I was shouting out the chorus to “Come Sail Away” at the top of my lungs, and considering the absurdity of the lyric “I thought that they were angels, but much to my surprise, they climbed aboard their starship and headed for the skies,” I cracked a giant smile. At this point, I realized that the people who make fun of this band, or others like it, have no rock n’ roll soul, and their opinion doesn’t matter. They can keep trying to argue that Miles Davis belongs in something called a rock n’ roll hall of fame because Bitches Brew was just so influential, and I’ll keep having fun by seeing bands like Styx.

Styx Setlist for 1/17/2010 at the Regency Ballroom

Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)
The Grand Illusion
Too Much Time on My Hands
Lorelei (JY vocals)
I am the Walrus (Beatles cover)
Boat on the River
The Criminal Mind
Suite Madame Blue
Crystal Ball
Miss America
Blue Collar Man
Ruby Tuesday (one verse and one chorus)
Come Sail Away

Gordon Elgart

A music nerd who probably uses that term too much. I have a deep love for bombastic, quirky and dynamic music.

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

DJ Kuul A January 18, 2010 at 2:44 pm

Yeah boy.

Not sure I’d put Chicago in a list with those other bands. They’ve been a sappy pop outfit for most of their existence, no? (To be honest, I haven’t really been paying attention since “Stay the Night.” And they’re certainly more valid than Miles Davis just based on their first decade or so.)

Neil Peart does a new version of the Hockey Night in Canada theme, and Chicago are the guest stars on the Brian Boitano Skating Spectacular!


Gordon Elgart January 18, 2010 at 3:31 pm

Chicago, a sappy pop band? Maybe. But there really needs to be consideration for 300-game winners as opposed to the Denny McClain types they keep electing.


john February 24, 2010 at 7:26 am

I do not usually respond to these things but, DJ Kuul A,
you need to go back before Chicago became popish in the 80’s. What about the band before Terry Kath died. Talk about rocking!


DJ Kuul A February 24, 2010 at 8:06 am

No I don’t. I know how awesome Chicago was FORTY YEARS AGO. Sadly, at this point the vast majority of their career has been sappy pop, not rockin’ fusion.

Again, though, I’d still vote for them ahead of many current R&R Hall of Something inductees. (But not on a list with Rush and Kiss.)

Ben January 18, 2010 at 7:52 pm

Nice write-up! I think one of the marks of a great rock and roll band is that they are audacious enough to make you say, “This is against every hipster instinct I possess, and I love it anyway.”

Miles Davis is a great musician who has no business being inducted into the RnRHoF.


Big Boog January 19, 2010 at 12:43 am

nice write up Gordo

Styx was good, dug their singing and stage presence.

Cougars were out in force

70s ain’t dead yet!


JohnnyPuzzled April 9, 2010 at 12:34 am

I just want to say how upset, annoyed, saddened, irritated and pissed I am by the fact that Dennis DeYoung and Styx can’t get together again.
I’ve seen both play and I have to say Dennis has the better show. Why? One word: Setlist.
During his show Mr. DeYoung said something like, “OK, I’m going to play a song Styx will never play for you: Castle Walls.”
Now, WTF can’t Styx play Castle Walls? Or if they can WTF are they not willing to do it?
Just WTF is going on here?


Gordon Elgart April 9, 2010 at 5:24 pm

I think that Styx is purposefully mean to the songs of Dennis DeYoung. It’s clear that they hate each other. Even when Styx finally got into the Rock Band videogame, it was only Tommy Shaw songs.


Steven August 18, 2010 at 8:51 am

For one STYX will be playing The Grand Illusion and Pieces of Eight.. Both albums in there Entirity… They did play a piece of Castle Wall in the early 2000’s and still do that today… But you will get to see them play it this fall… plus castle wall wasnt a mainstream song… And what does Dennis know about what they will or will not play.. Hes not even a part of the band nor does he talk to any of them…


DJ Kuul A August 19, 2010 at 1:33 pm

I like how your website assigned me a hexagon for an avatar. Wargamers rule!

BTW, your writeup didn’t really say whether the new singer was good, just that he was sick. How’s his voice?


john February 24, 2010 at 8:55 am

I do not believe the vast majority of their
career has been sappy pop. As I stated,
this did not begin until the mid-80’s.
They had almost two decades or serious
Rock and Roll prior to that. All the way back to when they were Chicago Transit
Authority. I agree, they went much more pop in the last 15 years or so but, you have people like Madonna ect… who are no question pop. Groups like: Rush, Boston, Kansas, Styx and Chicago
deserve a spot. All of these groups have been around 30-40 years and are still making records and touring.


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