“Rocking the Topeka Performing Arts Center” might not roll as smoothly off the tongue as “Rocking the Paradise,” but that’s exactly what Styx did on Saturday night. Though the theater was not sold out for the performance, the energy from the crowd filled it well beyond capacity. The last time that I saw a show at the Topeka Performing Arts Center was when Dennis DeYoung was one one of his solo tours; seeing the remainder of the band performing at the same venue appropriately completed that circle for me.
Shortly after 8:00 PM, Tommy Shaw, James “JY” Young, Lawrence Gowan, Ricky Phillips, and Todd Sucherman took the stage. (Original bassist, and founding member, Chuck Panozzo, who occasionally makes appearances with the band for a couple of songs, did not perform in Topeka). Though the band had spent the past few nights performing, there was no dampening their energy that night. James Young did have some difficulty in speaking while introducing songs, he was able to sing without much difficulty.
After opening with the decidedly non-Styx Gone, Gone, Gone, the band launched into The Grand Illusion, with Lawrence handling vocal duties on both. The band would continue to play through a catalog of Styx favorites; most surprising to me was James Young singing Loreli, a song normally sung by Dennis while he was in the band. I would have expected Lawrence to sing that one, but JY did it very well.
After Loreli, Tommy introduced the next song as a track from Side B of “The Grand Illusion” album, commenting “If you go to that record player and flip it over, we’ve got a relationship going,” and launched into the underrated Man in the Wilderness.
Things quickly took a psychedelic turn with a cover of The Beatles’ I Am the Walrus, a song first played by the band at the Crossroads Music Festival, and Light Up.
After an hour of music, the band took a 20 minute break and returned for another hour of classic rock. The second half included a tribute to Leonard Cohen, with Tommy playing a couple of versus from Hallelujah, and Lawrence Gowan paying tribute to Chuck Berry with Roll Over Beethoven.
There are a lot of classic rock bands who continue to tour well past their prime, who don’t sound nearly as good as they did on their records that were made 30, or 40 years ago. Styx, on the other hand, are an exception. Tommy and James still sound incredible while performing their hits; and Lawrence, while not an original member, sounds fantastic while singing the songs made famous by Dennis.
With a healthy touring schedule, it’s very likely that Styx will be performing a show near you at some point in the future. After wrapping up their solo dates, they will be hitting the road with REO Speedwagon, and Don Felder later this summer. Be sure to check out the tour dates linked below.
Photos and Words by Josh Chaikin
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