By Brandon “B-Mac” McCarthy…Photos by Matt “Rabit” Martinez
I remember when I was kid, whenever I would go on an errand or somewhere fun with my dad, he would usually put in a CD that featured his favorite rock ‘n’ roll bands from when he was young. I owe a lot of my rock education to my dad and his CD collection. He would usually play AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Cheap Trick, and one of his all time favorites, Styx. I remember when I first heard “Come Sail Away,” I was instantly hooked into the guitar sound and magical lyrics that transported me to another world. Though I am a diehard metalhead, like most metal fans, I started out by listening to classic rock groups. On June 24th, Matt Martinez and I were so excited to cover one of the bands we grew up on, and one that I mentioned above, Styx. I was so excited because also performing with them were REO Speedwagon and Don Felder, former lead guitarist of the Eagles. They are on the road for their United We Rock Tour. A night of nostalgia most certainly awaited us.
Felder was first to grace the stage. Just watching him stand up there, riffing away his masterpieces was something special. When I first interviewed him 3 years ago with SRO Magazine, I knew I needed to see him live because the way he described being on stage made me imagine myself watching him perform. He played a bunch of the Eagles’ classic tunes like “Witchy Woman,” “Life in the Fast Lane,” and “One of These Nights” to mention a few of them. He would also perform his solo song that was featured on the cult animated classic, Heavy Metal. It was my first time hearing “Heavy Metal (Takin’ A Ride),” and I loved its melody. During his performance, he would share lead guitar duties with B-52 axe man, Greg Suran. He is an absolute dynamite on the guitar. Styx’s Tommy Shaw and REO’s Dave Amato joined on the fun as well. As soon as Felder brought out his iconic white, double neck Gibson SG, I knew “Hotel California” was coming. To hear it live was captivating to my ears. Felder is truly one of the best in his field.
Don Felder complete Slideshow Below:
Coming onto the stage next was Styx. Their light show that accompanied the music was spellbinding. Keyboardist/lead vocalist Lawrence Gowan was entertaining to watch and had a glorious voice, especially on “The Grand Illusion.” His keyboard had the ability to spin around on stage, which enabled him to some tricks while playing the keys. The dual guitar heroes of Tommy Shaw and James “JY” Young were engaging while they were both exchanging solos. While Shaw took one, JY would tackle the next one. Both of them also nailed it when it came to lead vocals. From “Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)” and “Too Much Time On My Hands,” the fans could not get enough them both. Styx recently put out a new album with original material, entitled The Mission. Shaw played the first single, “Radio Silence.” It was a nice addition to their classic tracks, and Matt and I enjoyed listening to it. Original bassist and founding member Chuck Panozzo played three songs that night, with most of the bass parts going to the renowned Ricky Phillips. They each brought their own flair to their respective instrument. I rejoiced as soon as they played “Lady,” “Come Sail Away,” and closed their set with “Renegade.” It was my first time seeing Styx, but it will certainly not be my last.
Complete Styx Slideshow Below:
Headlining the Greek was 1980s rock giants, REO Speedwagon. Led by vocalist Kevin Cronin, who has not lost an ounce of his golden voice, Speedwagon was on a mission to have the fans relive their younger days, back when the songs first came out. Lead guitarist Dave Amato was red hot on the guitar, just cooking up solos that stood up to the songs reputation. The crowd came alive as soon as the first chords were struck for both “Can’t Fight This Feeling” and “Keep Pushin’.” They played a song Cronin wrote called “Whipping Boy,” which has not been recorded yet. It was extraordinary because fans love the tune, even though they do not have on their iPods. Only way to hear it is to hear it live. Bassist Bruce Hall performed excellently, particularly when he went into his solo during “Back on the Road Again,” which he also sang lead. He has a tremendous voice. Keyboardist/founder Neal Doughty and drummer Bryan Hitt also did their part in showing the fact that time can be rendered powerless, in dulling an artist’s gifts in crafting their art. Both played remarkably well. When Cronin went to the piano and belted out the first words to “Keep On Loving You,” everyone in attendance went bananas. There was one point where Matt and I were shoulder to shoulder, singing together. Hell of a song to close out the night.
Complete Reo Speedwagon Slideshow Below:
Listening to all these songs live brought back so many memories. My mom and dad grew up on these bands, and I got to see them with one of my best friends. During the show, I met and befriended a fellow classic rock fan, Marty Meltzer. Our similar tastes in music astounded him, seeing how he was in high school when these bands were big. Styx stole the show with their tremendous energy and hit songs. Felder lit up the Greek with stellar guitar work, and REO Speedwagon made us feel love with their tunes. Each band is living proof that you are never too old to keep rocking to the masses. To Don Felder, REO Speedwagon, and Styx, I salute you. Horns up!!!