Posted on 11/14/2012
Styx made their return to Nashville, TN to perform another concert at the historic Ryman Auditorium. We really didn’t know who enjoyed this show more, the fans or Tommy Shaw getting to perform on the former Grand Ole Opry stage again. This show was mostly a greatest hits concert with a few of the older FM album cuts thrown in for fun (as it should be). Enjoy Mike Arnold’s concert review as he takes you through the set list to describe Styx’s Nashville concert.
Written by Mike Arnold
On Thursday November 8th 2012, classic rock was once again well represented from the sounds and energetic live show of one of the best groups still touring from that era today, Styx. It’s been over a decade since original singer/keyboardist Dennis DeYoung has been in the band and people still don’t know he’s no longer with them. I received some messages that stated Styx without Dennis DeYoung is not Styx. I might have agreed with that statement years ago, but once I saw the enthusiastic, talented, energetic, Lawrence Gowan perform in concert my thought was, “Dennis Who?” I really don’t mean any disrespect to Dennis DeYoung, but I would much rather see Lawrence perform than watching Dennis sit behind a grand piano any day!
On this particular night, Styx performed many of their greatest hits along with some of the obscure album cuts that we used to hear during the beginning of the FM radio days. It seems whenever they are not performing a special type of tour, they always start with the same two songs. This night was no exception. The house lights went down to the tune of The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” blasting through the PA speakers. This tune led into other quick musical clips and before you knew it the guys from Styx (dressed in some form of black) were on stage while Lawrence Gowan played the keyboard intro of “Blue Collar Man”. This opening number always gives the audience what to expect from a Styx concert, the energy from the band and the strong vocals of Tommy Shaw. We knew this was going to be a great night as everyone was energized and the harmonies were right on. With the closing of the opening song, drummer Todd Sucherman led the intro into their usual second song of the night, “The Grand Illusion”. Here’s a chance for those not familiar with Lawrence Gowan to see his vocal ability as he sang the lead. Lawrence and band continued the energy as they came to a halt at the end of this number.
Tommy Shaw greeted the audience with his typical greeting, “Hello Friends!” Tommy talked about how he always loves performing in Nashville, but performing on the Ryman stage is something special. Tommy continued by saying with the respect for The Ryman, why don’t we continue with the show… and they did continue as Lawrence Gowan began the familiar keyboard synthesizer sounds of “Too Much Time On My Hands”. Nearly everyone sang along on the chorus and at times Tommy stopped to hear the audience sing. The crowd was also in time with the double hand-claps that goes with the song.
The band members left the stage with the exception of Lawrence. While the spotlight was on him, he began to play a very small solo on his keyboard before hitting the very familiar notes that brought the screams and cheers from the audience as he began the hit, “Lady”. Toward the end of the song, the band members returned to the stage for the loud dramatic ending. James “JY” Young stepped up to the mic stand in the middle of the stage not to say anything, but only to wave his arms to hear the loud cheers from the fans. Finally he said, “Mr Gowan, would you please?” This was the queue for Lawrence to start the keyboard intro to another hit from the 70s, which JY sang the lead, “Lorelei”.
Tommy Shaw stepped up to the center of the stage to discuss the albums they’ve sold and said it was mainly because of FM radio used to play the entire album sides. He explained that everyone not only heard the singles from the bands, but the entire albums. Tommy introduced one of the songs that used to be played on FM stations that wasn’t a single as the began, “Man In The Wilderness”. The harmonies from the band and the high notes from Tommy Shaw were superb! The show continued with a couple of more FM radio songs, “I’m Okay” and “Pieces of Eight”.
The band left the stage and Tommy Shaw walked out with an acoustic guitar, wearing a jacket that he dedicated to Porter Wagner. Tommy explained that he was in a regional band from Montgomery, Alabama which traveled from town to town, but still found themselves back in Montgomery. He told a story of times they used to practice in a Bowling Alley and was screamed at by the lady manager to stop playing because “This is Bowling League Night!” He continued to say that he received a phone call from JY to come to Chicago and bring his songs to audition for Styx. Tommy said this is one of the songs he brought with him, “Crystal Ball”. Just like “Lady”, the band returned for the dramatic end of the song… Excellent!
It was time once again to get back to the FM cuts from the 70s. Another favorite that sounded better than the original recording, “Castle Walls”. Tommy spoke to the crowd about how they have been through so much in their career and they have plenty of stories. He said, “In fact someone should write a book about it all.” There were a few in the crowd pointing at me saying, “He Did!” Tommy said, “Here’s someone who did write those stories, our original bass player, Chuck Panozzo!” Chuck walked out all dressed in black, wearing a hat and a bass while bassist Ricky Philips switched to a double neck guitar as they went into another Styx favorite, “Fooling Yourself”. JY walked to the front middle of the stage to scream, “Ladies and Gentlemen, ‘Miss America’!” The band rocked and JY’s voice sounded as strong as ever on this number.
While the band members leave the stage again, Lawrence Gowan sat at his signature “merry-go-round” keyboard playing portions of sing-alongs from very familiar classic hits which included, “Layla”, “Sweet Dreams”, “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”, and “Pinball Wizard”. Then Lawrence left the keyboard to test the audience with more classic hits by singing a line and expecting the audience to sing the next line… and the Nashville crowd past the test with flying colors. He included, “Fat Bottom Girls”, “Another Brick in the Wall”, and others. He ended the a cappella sing-along with the Styx hit, “Come Sail Away”. Although Lawrence completed his leading of the singing, the audience didn’t stop as they joined him throughout this classic tune. The band came out to rock it as they closed their set.
The Nashville crowd was not satisfied without having more from this legendary band. The band returned to the stage (throwing out various gifts of t-shirts, blankets, and more) with their rock energy. For the first song of the encore Styx performed a song I have never heard this lineup play, “Rockin’ The Paradise”. Lawrence Gowan went above and beyond with his fifty-five year young energy level. This guy is in some kind of shape. He was running from one side of the stage to the other without stopping and not missing a single note. The only thing that thrilled this audience more was when Tommy Shaw sang the opening line of the final song of the night, “Renegade”. This song ended the night’s performance and every band member showed their appreciation as they shook hands, bumped fists, while also throwing out guitar picks and drumsticks before taking their final bow together as a band before leaving the Ryman stage.
Styx has always been one of my favorite live acts to watch because they demand the energy from the crowd and expect everyone to sing along to their hits. This particular show was flawless and full of energy, but then every time I’ve seen them perform has been this way. For the Concert Blast scale, I will give this show a 9.6 (out of 10). I would have replaced “Pieces Of Eight” and “I’m Okay” with “Suite Madame Blue” and their version of “I Am The Walrus”. If they had done that, I may have given them a perfect 10.0! Every rocker, young or old, must experience Styx in concert. If you ever have a chance to see them in concert, don’t let it pass you by!
Written by Mike Arnold