Written by Kevin Black – October 3, 2019
Smart Financial Centre hits another home run. Everyone loves a good opening act, but when you have a stellar line-up like James “JY” Young, Tommy Shaw, Ricky Phillips and the Classic Rock Drummer of the Year 2019, Todd Sucherman, writing, arranging, recording and performing over four decades with minimal changes, they got it covered.
When one act covers the entire show as Styx just did, you can’t have too much time on your hands. Two one-hour sets with a twenty-minute break followed by an explosive two-song encore. That gave the band plenty of space to perform plenty of hits along with new material available on their new album “The Mission”.
These new songs stay in true fashion with the original Styx sound. What I find most impressive is how after forty years, they sound incredible. Vocals still impeccable, still hitting the high and low notes and still very well rehearsed and tight as ever. James “JY” Young open with “Gone Gone Gone” giving way to “Blue Collar Man” reaching 100.2 on the decibel meter, I knew we were going to have a powerful audio experience.
When I researched the set list for SFC, I didn’t see one of my favorites on the other tour date list. I was slightly disappointed to learn “Snow Blind” didn’t make the cut. So you can imagine when the highly recognizable keyboard intro began, how excited I was. Doesn’t get any better than James Young and Tommy Shaw swapping verses with five-part harmony.
Something else I find interesting is how five musicians can create that much sound, especially when five guys make “The Grand Illusion” sound as though there are eight musicians on stage. They snuck in a cool prelude to “Come Sail Away” when Lawrence Gowan paid tribute to Queen and Freddie Mercury with a solo vocal/keyboard version of Bohemian Rhapsody while courting the audience to cover key vocal parts.
Then, Tommy Shaw began to introduce a secret special guest. Wow, who could this be? Should I spoil it for the rest of the tour? Original bass player and one of Styx’s founders, Chuck Panozzo, there I said it. The audience was also privileged to be part of something that won’t happen again this tour. The band celebrated Tommy Shaw’s birthday by bringing a cake on stage and we all wished TS a happy birthday.
After two hours of Styx’s greatest hits, they left the stage only to return under pressure to give this show a much needed encore. WOW! Mr. Roboto was awesome, reaching a powerful 105.3 on the Richter scale. Now that’s “given it the business”.
I love it when an artist stays close to the album version so we can enjoy all the musical signature parts we are accustom to with some added guitar licks and breakdowns. I have to say I was feeling extremely selfish when they ended an extended version of “Renagade”. We all wanted more!
All in all, this is a must see for every music lover/classic rock fan. High energy, outstanding guitar work, powerful vocals, amazing sound engineering and forty years of pure rock-n-roll.
Kevin Black/Kevin Black Photography