When veteran artists produce new music, it tends to be a precarious endeavor. While diehard fanatics of still-active classic bands of the 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond, such as the Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Def Leppard, and Cheap Trick, will usually seek out any and every release of their favorite acts, the vast majority of casual listeners generally opt instead for the comfortable, familiar songs that they often originally forged connections with in their youth.
So when Chicago rockers Styx announced earlier this year that they’d be performing their most recent work, 2017’s acclaimed concept album, The Mission, in its entirety for the first time (save for a one-off trial run in Las Vegas in January) as part of a string of East Coast dates, there may have been some initial reservations. After all, playing the complete Paradise Theatre or Pieces of Eight records is one thing, but pulling off a full show of a collection of fresh, mostly unknown tracks by a group that debuted nearly 50 years ago is another.
However, true to form, the ambitious Midwestern outfit managed to overcome the daunting task on Thursday, November 7 at the NYCB Theatre at Westbury, and proceeded to display to the New York audience why they’ve been such a sonic powerhouse for so long.
Hitting the stage promptly at 8pm sans an opening act, legendary tenured guitarist James “J.Y.” Young (a member since Styx’s self-titled debut) and his axe-virtuoso cohort Tommy Shaw were joined by dynamic longtime drummer Todd Sucherman, progressively talented bassist Ricky Phillips, and charismatic Scottish Canadian lead vocalist and keyboardist Lawrence Gowan, who is currently celebrating a staggering two decade anniversary with the band.
Divided into two sets, The Mission and “The Hits,” the predominantly instrumental “Overture” led things off before the group launched into the album’s frenetic, retro-aural lead single “Gone Gone Gone.” From there, they succeeded in their ‘mission’ of keeping the sold-out crowd on their feet with each track played, mimicking the studio versions perfectly.
“Trouble at the Big Show” showcased Young’s husky voice before the trifecta of “Locomotive,” “Radio Silence,” and “The Greater Good” slowed the pace down for several minutes, the latter being a particular standout due to the gorgeous harmonizing resulting from each member trading off lead vocal duty. For Gowan, a clear highlight of the evening was “Khedive,” named after the ship his father sailed on in World War II, as his deft piano playing was masterful on the deeply personal tune.
After a brief intermission, it was finally time for the chart-toppers. “The Grand Illusion” started this portion of the night off in fitting ‘grand’ fashion while the multi-layered “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)” exemplified why Shaw’s guitar work is held in such high esteem. A surprise appearance by Styx founder Chuck Panozzo proved to be a definite crowd pleaser as well, as the semi-retired bassist didn’t miss a beat in keeping the rhythm on a few choice numbers.
Gowan’s quick solo cover of “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” morphed into an audience sing-along that was prefaced by the singer’s praise of the soon-to-be-retiring(?) Elton John, and also included a good-natured jab at the legendary singer-songwriter. “I saw Elton in concert years ago – the first time he said goodbye,” Gowan joked.
A beautiful rendition of “Come Sail Away” concluded the set as the band adroitly made a swift return and proceeded to blister the packed venue with a riveting one-two punch of an encore consisting of “Mr. Roboto,” a keen selection considering the song’s absence from their repertoire in recent years, followed by frequent show closer “Renegade.”
Although Styx will be on the road at least through January of next year, there aren’t presently any other full Mission gigs on the schedule. But if the rousing reception of the special treat in New York was any indication, hopefully more will be booked soon.
- Gone Gone Gone
- Hundred Million Miles from Home
- Trouble at the Big Show
- Radio Silence
- The Greater Good
- Time May Bend
- Ten Thousand Ways
- Red Storm
- All Systems Stable
- The Outpost
- Mission to Mars
- The Grand Illusion
- Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)
- Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)
- Miss America
- Rockin’ the Paradise
- Too Much Time on My Hands
- Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
- Come Sail Away
- Mr. Roboto
Click here for Styx’s upcoming tour dates.