Live Review and Live Photos by Robert Cavuoto
Twitter : @RobertCavuoto
Styx is currently on tour supporting their 17th studio album, Crash of the Crown, which came out in June, and has wasted no time hitting the road post-pandemic. As always, their touring schedule is relentless, performing almost every night of the week.
Today at the 38th annual New Jersey Lottery Festival of Ballooning in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, James “JY” Young [lead vocals, guitars], Tommy Shaw [lead vocals, guitars], Chuck Panozzo [bass, vocals], Todd Sucherman [drums], Lawrence Gowan [lead vocals, keyboards], Ricky Phillips [bass, vocals] and newest member Will Evankovich [guitar] delivered a superb performance. For most in attendance, it was their first live show in 18 months, and they quickly got lost in the moment of a great live show that only Styx can deliver. Fans were rocking out, enjoying themselves, and thrilled to be shaking off the cobwebs that had entwined them during the pandemic.
If you recall, Styx had a huge impact on the music and culture of Rock & Roll in the ’70s, and ’80s with a string of five consecutive monster albums, The Grand Illusion, Pieces of Eight, Cornerstone, Paradise Theater, and Kilroy Was Here. The songs from these albums were the soundtrack to our youth and kept the audience singing along!
With seventeen extraordinary albums spanning their 50-year career, Styx could have easily played for four hours. Their 90-minute show opened with their newest hit, “The Fight of Our Lives,” off Crash of the Crown, and never looked back! It was a fast-paced, high-energy set. There was a tremendous camaraderie between the members as they all played off each other nicely, joked with the crowd, and shared insights to many of their biggest hits! Each band member received his time in the spotlight, whether for a guitar solo, keyboard solo or taking center stage to sing.
The setlist included the radio and MTV hits that made them a household name, like “Lady,” “Blue Collar Man,” “Rockin’ the Paradise,” “Too Much Time on My Hands,” “Come Sail Away,” and “Mr. Roboto.” All the songs were performed to perfection and instantly transported us back to a better and simpler time. The band also included five new songs from Crash of the Crown, including the title track “Reveries,” “Lost at Sea,” “Fight of Our Lives,” and “Sound the Alarm.”
Lawrence and Tommy dominated the stage as they are both charismatic frontmen with their respective talents singing, playing guitar, and playing keyboards. Lawrence’s voice sounded phenomenal; delivering the songs in the same spirit, heart, and passion as when they were written. Wearing wildly colorful jackets throughout the show, Lawrence sang and entertained the crowd from his swiveling keyboard, like a preacher in his pulpit.
JY’s guitar playing was impressive as his playing emoted passion with every lead and gave the band their heavy-sounding edge. Styx may be remembered for their ballads, but JY helped hammer home that they have many rocking songs in their armamentarium!
Drummer extraordinaire Todd Sucherman’s fierce playing propelled the group perfectly throughout the show. Ricky Phillips is a master of the bass, with all fingers constantly moving at breakneck speed and continually jumping in on backing vocals. His thunderous playing was done in a tasteful way to balance the guitar and yet playing in the pocket of the drums. Fans were blown away when the original bassist and founding member of Styx, Chuck Panozzo, came out to perform several songs, including “Fooling Yourself.” He was greeted with a standing ovation!
No Styx show would be complete with Tommy taking center stage to perform “Renegade” with its lush vocal harmonies and the powerful new ballad “Sound the Alarm,” which was written pre-pandemic and foretells what we all were all going to face in 2020. Todd Sucherman told me in a previous interview that when he first heard the song, “I damn near burst into tears because the lyrics were so in tune with what is happening now.” It was quite an emotional moment to hear Tommy sing it live.
Styx looked like rock stars and played like the veterans who genuinely care about the music and being on stage. After Sunday’s show, I think most in attendance would agree Styx still embraces the fun, energy, and excitement they did decades ago!