By Matt “Rabit” Martinez Red Hare Images
When you’re growing up, your first experience with music is usually from your parents. Though they are probably playing Nursery Rhyme songs and children’s bands like the Wiggles. You can luck out that your parents will get tired of listening to the Wheels on the Bus, and eventually put on some good classic music. Riding in my Dad’s truck he would put on the Bone Yard, playing the heavier side of classic rock like AC/DC, Scorpions, Van Halen, and others. While my mom would usually be looping her favorite band Styx. Growing up I developed a fondness for all these bands, but Styx always stood out to me. The beautiful melodies, the gritty guitar work of Tommy Shaw, the different vocal ranges each member brought to the band. I have been fortunate enough to see this band over 10 times now, and most of those experiences have been with my mom. When Styx decided to come back to the City National Grove of Anaheim, I knew there was no other way to kick off 2020 than taking my mom to see our favorite band live.
Styx has a catalog of 16 albums to pull music from, and they wanted to show off the best of it all by forgoing an opening act, and just playing a solid two hour set of the best of the best of Styx. Opening the night with “Gone Gone Gone” off their latest album The Mission, the crowd was already on their feet and ready to rock. Moving into two of their classics “Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)” and then “The Grand Illusion,” the entire crowd was singing every word back to the band with such passion. Before playing their next song, Tommy Shaw got on the mic to talk about an experience the band got at the NASA headquarters. Styx got to be in the control room when NASA’s Cassini space probe ran out of fuel and was discharge by crashing it into one of Saturn’s moons. To commemorate Cassini and Styx for creating the album The Mission, NASA played the song “Radio Silence” just before setting the crash path for Cassini. Which made listening to this song so special live.
One thing that makes Styx songs so special is that they share vocal duties between three of the members, Tommy Shaw, Lawrence Gowan, and James “JY” Young. And to me, no song shows off the talents of all three members better than “Snowblind.” Opening with Young’s deep baritone voice to really set the mood of the song, lost in a drift and blind in a snowstorm. Before Shaw comes in with his melodic voice that inspires hope and allows you to find your way out of the snow, while Gowan fills in the harmonies to create a masterclass song of how to layer different vocal ranges. Something that made this night more special was that original bassist Chuck Panozzo was able to come out and perform a couple songs with the band. Starting with “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man),” Panozzo may not be able to work the stage as strong as some of his counterparts, but he still drives a mean bass line and the smile on his face shows he loves every second he is able to return to the stage with the band he and his brother started. The set was broken into two halves, and Styx ended the first half on such a high note with “Rockin’ The Paradise” where Gowan came down front and center dancing in a sequin jacket and fedora, before going into “Suite Madame Blue” to end the first half of the set.
After a 20 minute break, Styx stepped back on stage with “Miss America,” their tribute to the United States. Before going into “Crystal Ball” Tommy Shaw gave the audience a special treat with a solo acoustic performance of the beginning of “Come Again” by his other band Damn Yankees. This is a supergroup I would love to get the chance to see live, but the chance of that seems slim. The second half of the set consisted of a couple more Mission songs like “The Outpost” and “Khedive,” as well as a classic song I don’t think I’ve heard live before “Pieces of Eight.” With the recent passing of Neil Peart of Rush, instead of doing his usual tribute to other classic rock songs, Lawrence Gowan decided to give tribute by doing a piano solo rendition of “Limelight” that was incredibly moving and a tear jerker for Rush fans. As Chuck Panozzo stepped back on stage again, we knew what had to be coming next as the opening piano melody of “Come Sail Away” got played. If you weren’t on your feet yet, you were now. Every person in the crowd could be seen standing and rocking out to one of Styx’s biggest played songs.
As the band stepped off stage, we knew we weren’t done. Styx had played so many songs so far, but there had to be some that were left out. The first encore song they played has a sour taste when it comes to certain members of the band, but I am so happy that Styx and Dennis DeYoung have come to an understanding as getting to see them perform the song “Mr. Roboto” in its entirety is still such a joy to experience. As the lights dimmed, and a spot light hit Tommy, the solemn opening lines to “Renegade” were sung before the ferocious scream of “YEAH!” was cried out as confetti and streamers were blasted across the venue. With the confetti raining down over the singing and dancing crowd, Styx knows how to end a show on a high note and leave their audience happy.
Full Styx gallery below:
Something I love about Styx is their music is timeless and spans many generations. You can truly see that by looking at the fans in the crowd. That night there were people off all ages from kids under 10, to seniors. I am so happy that I get to share this band with my mom, and so happy I got to take her this night to the show. Styx puts on one of the consistently best shows I’ve seen, and they don’t appear to be stopping any time soon. Nor does my mom or I intend to stop supporting them and seeing them live. Until next time Styx.