A Return to Live Music with Styx and Collective Soul

Styx guitarist, James Young, playing in the rain

481 days. That’s how long it’s been since a live concert, and we couldn’t do better than Collective Soul, and Styx. Though severe weather threatened the evening, the show must go on, and it certainly did. Several thousand fans poured into the newly renamed Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, Cricket Wireless Amphitheater, Providence Medical Center Amphitheater, Azura Amphitheater (though let’s be honest, it will always be Sandstone) for an evening of classic rock. This brought things full circle for me, as Styx was one of the first concerts I’d been to at the same venue some 20 years before.

Taking the stage just before 7:30 was comedian Paul Ollinger. Riffing on aging, and millennials, he certainly fit his material for the audience. With the crowd still trickling in after he concluded his set, it may have been best for him to start a little later to warm up more of the crowd.

Kicking things off with the music were 90’s radio staple, Collective Soul. It was great for me to see these guys live, since I missed them when they were at Rockfest in 2017. The band played a nice blend of old, and new material, and the now growing crowd was loving every minute of it. Ed and the gang were just as eager to play, as we were to listen.

It was truly a love fest for all involved, with Styx’s Tommy Shaw even joining the band for December. Rain would continue to fall throughout the set, with bolts of lightning threatening to put an end to the festivities, but the Rock Gods clearly have a sense of irony, and gave us some reprieve as Collective Soul ended Right as Rain from their 2019 release, Blood, giving us a spectacular double rainbow.

A quick snapshot of the rainbow taken with my phone.

Now, it was time for the headliners of the evening. One of most popular bands in rock, Styx hit the stage. With a new album, Crash of the Crown, being released just one week earlier on June 18th, Styx wasted no time in introducing us to their new material. Opening their set with The Fight of Our Lives, the harmonies and use of synthesizer reminded me of Superstars from the Grand Illusion album. It’s great to hear them staying true to their roots, while still adding a modern flair.

Styx then quickly transitioned into perennial classic rock radio favorite Blue Collar Man from their 1978 release Pieces of Eight. It would be the first of many of their classic hits performed that night. Styx showed no signs of slowing down, playing with all the energy we’ve come to expect from their live performances. Most surprising to me was how well Tommy Shaw’s voice has held up. He sounds as good as he does on the recordings, and JY’s guitar is as heavy, and blistering as ever.

With a new album, Styx also introduced a new member with Will Evankovich, who has been a member of The Guess Who since 2014, and collaborated on the 2017 Styx release, The Mission. Will’s guitar, and mandolin, work added to an already full sound, bringing the heavy to new heights.

Rain would continue to fall through the night, with lightning illuminating the sky, but always waiting for the music to stop first (very considerate, I must say). Lawrence Gowan, deciding it was getting a little chilly, donned a sparkly jacket, and top hat, before leading us in a raucous rendition of Rocking the Paradise.

Rounding out the band were Todd Suchermann on drums, Ricky Phillips on bass, and Lawrence Gowan on keyboards, also handling vocal duties on the songs written by former member, and co-founder, Dennis DeYoung. Speaking of founding members, Tommy Shaw broke from the music briefly to speak of the band’s origins in Chicago, with two brothers, John and Chuck, before introducing Chuck Panazzo, the original bass player of the band. Chuck joined the band on-stage for Fooling Yourself, something he would do on select tour dates throughout the years, being unable to fully commit to touring due to health reasons. It’s always great to see him up there with Tommy, and James, and we were fortunate to see him on this Kansas City date.

As the evening wound down to a close, Styx gave us more of their newer material with Khedive from 2017’s The Mission, a largely instrumental piece, showing more of Lawrence’s skills on the keyboard, and Lost at Sea, also from 2021’s Crash of the Crowns. Things then wrapped up with what may be Styx’s most popular song, Come Sail Away. A song about dreams…or angels…or alien abductions. Maybe all three.

What kind of a concert would it be without encores though? Styx seems to have come to terms with their past, and embraced their 1983 release Kirloy was Here, and played Mr. Roboto – a release which may have been responsible, at least in part, for the group’s hiatus in the mid-to-late 80’s. Whatever your feelings, the song is undeniably catchy, and a crowd favorite. The energy was high and electricity was in the air (and not just from the storm). There was one song left to play, Renegade, the quintessential Styx classic. It wouldn’t be a Styx show without it, and they did not disappoint.

Never a critic’s darling, and never in the running for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Styx has always been a band of the people. With popier songs like Lady, and Come Sail Away, to the heavier sounds from Tommy, and JY on hits like Blue Collar Man, and Miss America, Styx has a little for everyone on their albums, and brings the variety to their live shows. With a heavy touring schedule, it would be difficult not to find a Styx show near you. And now that live music is back, there is no reason not to.

Words and Photos by Josh Chaikin

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