Styx missing heart
June 3, World Music Theatre, Tinley Park, IL
Styx played Chicago for the first time on Saturday since the release of its Brave New World CD last summer, as the headliners of the LOOP Fest, sponsored by WLUP-FM. While the band had a year to practice its new lineup on audiences around the country, the home crowd wasn't completely won over. Fans who had sat through sets by Eddie Money, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Great White and R.E.O. Speedwagon began streaming out of the aisles halfway through Styx's show. Maybe it was because of the long day, or maybe it was because without founder and chief hit architect Dennis DeYoung, the current version of Styx turns out to have plenty of muscle, but very little heart.
DeYoung announced last spring that he couldn't commit to touring right away for the Brave New World CD and the band — which now only includes Tommy Shaw and James Young from the classic lineup — decided to go out on the road without him. The band's song selection Saturday included all the hits Shaw has had with the band — "Too Much Time on My Hands," "Fooling Yourself," "Blue Collar Man" and encore "Renegade," as well as his classic "Crystal Ball," but many fans (who had no idea of the current schism between DeYoung and Shaw/Young) came to hear DeYoung sing "Babe," "Best of Times," "Don't Let It End," "Mr. Roboto," "Show Me The Way," "Suite Madame Blue," and more. Their lack — and DeYoung's presence — were sorely missed. The lifeblood of Styx seemed anemic.
Keyboardist Lawrence Gowan did a good job vocally of handling the Must-Do DeYoung hits "Come Sail Away," "Grand Illusion" and "Lady," but his stage antics proved more distracting than entertaining — he seemed to spend more time spinning his revolving synthesizer and moving about the stage than actually playing keyboards for the band. The result was that many of the band's classic songs were "missing" something (the solo to "Come Sail Away" was especially disappointing).
Young sang "Lorelei" (which he co-wrote in 1975 with DeYoung, though DeYoung originally sang it) to good effect, as well as his usual "Snowblind" and "Miss America" rockers, though the band's attack on Young's newest heavy metal anthem, "Heavy Water" from Brave New World sounded muddy and shrill. The band brought out original bassist Chuck Panozzo to play on a couple of songs which pleased fans (Panozzo announced his resignation from the band early last year). Glen Burtnik, who filled in for the missing Shaw on 1990's Edge of the Century album and tour, handled Panozzo's parts for most of the show. Unfortunately, the band only let Burtnik handle one number at the mic — his titletrack for Edge, rather than his throbbing Top 100 rock single from that album, "Love is the Ritual" or his Top 30 ballad from it (co-written and originally sung by DeYoung), "Love At First Sight."
The bottom line: Styx without DeYoung is like pizza without cheese. It's definitely missing something crucial.