Styx Midwest Rock and Roll Express Live Review #tbt

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Throwback Thursday #tbt

Originally Posted on July 8, 2012

The last show of the Midwest Rock’N’Roll Express Tour, featuring Ted Nugent, Styx, and REO Speedwagon, played at the Bangor Waterfront Pavilion. We all had our fingers crossed that it would be a blow out show. It was!

Getting ready for the show, I thought about the record collection I had as a kid. I remember bringing home “Pieces of Eight,” one of my first grown up rock’n’roll albums. I bought it at The Music Shop in Presque Isle, Maine, and carried it home proud as could be to play on the crappy little stereo that I inherited from my brother. God, I loved that album. It was rebellion and cool, full of bass and guitar. I couldn’t ever get it loud enough, but I tried. My poor parents, they were very patient. They had to be since there was always a turntable going in that house. All those old albums must have been in a yard sale when the family sold the farm. I hope they have a good home.

Styx was second in the lineup for the night, and the change out between acts was so fast and smooth that fans barely made it back to their seats from the break after Nugent before Styx magically appeared on stage. With the pounding chords opening “Blue Collar Man,” the guys jumped into the performance and didn’t stop. Taking a chance to greet the audience, James “JY” Young talked about the next song, “The Grand Illusion.” Again, another familiar lead in. I realized just how many Styx lead ins have risen to classic status. A couple of chords, and if you’re of a certain age, you know what’s coming next.
…well, we didn’t actually know what was coming next…

Walking on from back stage, Ted Nugent appeared with a crazy tiger-striped guitar. I had so hoped for this. Tommy Shaw and Nugent together for a mini Damn Yankees treat! The band pulled out a fantastic “Coming of Age.” Nugent was on fire, Shaw was great, as were all the band members. In case anyone misses the significance of event, ask a die-hard fan. This was a big deal! The party was in full swing. Did I tell you I had front row center seats for this show? I did. I did. I did.

Then it was time to breathe a little with “Lady.” Lawrence Gowan, keyboards and vocals, is marvelous. Theatrical and entertaining, he’s as likely to be on top of the keyboards as at the front of the stage. Harmonizing, the band pulled this song off with new vigor and fun. “Lorelei,” was next. I’d sort of forgotten about this tune, released in 1976, but I knew every single word right along with JY.
I’ll take a second here to make an admission. As a teenager, I was a huge Styx fan, as you probably guessed, but at some point I sort of moved on. I don’t know if I just didn’t update my vinyl to CDs or if I was charmed by alternative radio, whatever it was, I wandered away from the old arena rock sound. I was hesitant about the show knowing I was writing it up. What if I didn’t connect? What if I found them a bit tired? I crossed my fingers and knew that of course it would be a very nice show at the very least. Let me tell you, this band isn’t tired.

Sitting there watching them electrify the stage and the fans, I got goosebumps. The show was that much fun. And the music? It was like finding something I’d forgotten that I loved. Tommy Shaw is astounding, guitar ripping and vocals strong. JY is fantastic and smooth. Lawrence Gowan works it like his life depends on it. Todd Sucherman, drums, keeps everything running without flaw or fail, as does Ricky Phillips on bass, happy perfection.

Back to the show, Tommy Shaw discussed how carefully the band had been when picking out B-sides. Ah yes, it was “Man in the Wilderness,” starting out with acoustic and then moving to powerful electric sound. I was drawn into the relevancy of the lyrics. Today’s overwhelm of social media and cell phones in the air recording a concert instead of just watching it real-time? “Sometimes it makes no sense at all.”

Chuck Panozzo, original bass player, joined the stage for “Fooling Yourself,” welcomed in graciously by the band. Fans were happy to see Shaw, Young and Panozzo, back at it and enjoying the moment. Tommy Shaw did a bit of a Spanish flavor jig as the song opened, still able to make all the girls stare, and all four guitarists landed at the edge of the stage for the wrap up of the tune. The whole show was a party with the band in the tiny GA pit. What a thrill for fans!

Continuing the set with more classics and not afraid to reach way back, “Miss America,” was next, and it rocked with JY on vocals and that thumping hard edge guitar. Taking a little downtime for everyone except Lawrence Gowan. He entertained us with a monologue about 2012’s impending doom and what will be left when we’re all gone. As the aliens search the rubble, Gowan pointed into the crowd and said, “They’re going to find this lady’s “Grand Illusion” LP.” She held it up proudly. “Of course, they’ll need something to play it on.” Maybe they can find my old stereo. I bet it is indestructible. God knows I tried to kill it. Complete with interplanetary video, “Come Sail Away,” filled the venue as fans sung along, happy and energetic. REO’s Dave Amato even joined in. Gowan stole the show on this one. If the name Gowan sounds familiar, go to YouTube and do a search. If you were close to the Canadian border in the mid 80s, you’ll recognize his solo music.

After teasing that the show was over, Styx gave an encore of “Rockin’ the Paradise” followed up with “Renegade.” Even after a great set with constant crowd interaction and energy for their show, the band still brought out even more for this song, certainly one of the most played and enjoyed songs of my generation. JY ripped it out on guitar, and Tommy hits those notes with no hesitation, guitar never stopping. Just amazing. People were on their feet singing and elated with the performance.
It truly felt like the show was over way too soon. And let’s be honest, not every show seems that way. I’m positive that had Styx offered, the crowd would have let them play the entire set all over again and just amped up the energy even higher.

Thanks, Guys – You’re incredible!

Set List: Blue Collar Man ~ The Grand Illusion ~ Coming of Age (with Ted Nugent) ~ Lady ~ Lorelei ~ Man in the Wilderness ~ Fooling Yourself ~ Miss America ~ Come Sail Away ~ Rockin’ the Paradise ~ Renegade

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