Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Styx is re-energized at Pacific Amphitheatre

Styx performing at the Pacific Amphitheatre in Costa Mesa on July 15, 2016. From left: James "J.Y." Young, Tommy Shaw, Chuck Panozzo and Ricky Phillips. Photo: Kelly A. Swift
My review of Styx originally ran on the Orange County Register website on Saturday, July 16, 2016. A special "thank you" to Kelly A. Swift for the use of her photos.



Where: Pacific Amphitheatre, Costa Mesa

When: July 15, 2016


Tommy Shaw at Pacific Amphitheatre.
Photo: Kelly A. Swift
Arena rock is cool again. Look no further than Styx’s sold out performance in front of an enthusiastic audience at Pacific Amphitheatre on Friday night (July 15, 2016). Fans (including a number of twentysomethings and younger, many donning the band's retro-styled shirts and hats) cheered as the group performed 90 minutes of mostly radio favorites in an entertaining and high energy performance.
When this writer last caught Styx at the Pac Amp in August 2010, the band appeared before a less-than-capacity crowd delivering the majority of the same Styx favorites; but Friday’s affair was dramatically stronger. Led by the capable talents of singer-guitarist Tommy Shaw, there was an energy to the fast moving 19-song set and artistry to the presentation of material that outdistanced the previous show.
Styx’s high-profile return includes the upcoming release Styx: Live At the Orleans Arena on Blu-ray and DVD later this summer, a follow-up to the winning audio-only live collection of the same name released a year ago.
Original bassist Chuck Panozzo and keyboardist
Lawrence Gowan. Photo: Kelly A. Swift
Opening with the title track off 1977’s The Grand Illusion, Styx set the tone with a potent hard-rocking version of the song that featured both Shaw and guitarist James Young unleashing impressive solos amid Lawrence Gowan’s layered keyboards and tenor vocals.
As the night progressed, it was clear that Styx thrives by reworking its songs to showcase lush harmonies, virtuoso instrumental chops and audience participation to liven up the material. “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)” benefitted from the audience’s well-timed singing of iconic lyrics at full voice, an effective counterpoint to Shaw’s graceful vocals and acoustic guitar.
The most powerful part of the concert included a heartfelt tribute to David Bowie, in which Shaw and Gowan performed an acoustic-flavored version of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” that segued into the entire band coming back to stage to perform Syyx’s own “Crystal Ball,” the latter an ambitious song that moved from a plaintive folk ballad to a more explosive rock piece with some of Shaw’s most powerful lead guitar work of the night.
From left: Ricky Phillips, James "J.Y." Young
and Tommy Shaw. Photo: Kelly A. Swift
Other highlights included a hard-edged “Miss America,” the melodic lament “Man in the Wilderness,” extended prog-rock gem “Sweet Madame Blue” and two of Shaw’s best-known rockers – “Blue Collar Man” and the night-ending “Renegade.”
Throughout the set, the members of Styx (including an appearance by original bassist Chuck Panozzo) just seemed to be having a blast, appropriate for a band that called in quit in the early 1980s but has clearly rediscovered the joys of playing music this time around.

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