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Styx’s Dennis DeYoung Celebrates 40 Years of Grand Illusion

Dennis DeYoung with the famous Mr. Roboto mask at the Hoyt Sherman Place. Photo by Josh Chaikin

The historic Hoyt Sherman Place was treated to an evening of classic rock on Friday night, with former Styx front-man, Dennis DeYoung, and his band taking the stage. The band would play for two hours, covering most of the hits from Styx’s library.

Having been touring regularly for the better part of two decades, since his departure from Styx, Dennis did something different on this tour; he, and his band mates, would play the iconic The Grand Illusion album, in its entirety. Which they did, without interruption, save for a “Side two” comment from Dennis, between Come Sail Away, and Miss America.

At 72, Dennis still looks great, and his vocals are still powerful. He plows through the tracks, and dances about the stage, as though he were half his age (I am half his age, and he’s probably in better shape than me, I’d better get to the gym…). He also effortlessly hits the high notes on Come Sail Away, and his most successful solo track, Desert Moon, more on that in a bit.

Previously, a tour such as this would be unthinkable for Dennis. Previously his tours would include his material from Styx, and solo material from Back to the World, Desert Moon, and on his symphony tour, Hunchback of Notre Dame, as he felt bringing someone else into the fold to sing the songs made famous by Tommy Shaw, and James Young might not sit well with his fans. Things changed when his son saw a video of August Zadra performing with his Styx cover band. Fast forward a few years, with the addition of Jimmy Lahey, playing JY’s parts, and singing his songs, and a new show was complete.

Dennis clearly enjoys what he does, and was in good humor most of the night, pointing to the balcony by the stage, and asking “Anyone named Booth up there?” and inviting everyone to follow him on Facebook, “but not into the men’s room!”

Dennis’ ballads played as well today, as they did back in the 70’s when first released, with everyone singing along to Lady, the first song that Dennis ever wrote, or even dancing along to Mr. Roboto.

While the first act of the concert was uninterrupted, Dennis gave a small intro to every song in the second act, naming the album, and giving some backstory; it was a nice coda, and made things feel more intimate, in the already small Hoyt Sherman Place.

A surprise addition to the set was the previously mentioned Desert Moon, snuggled between Lady, and Mr. Roboto. I say this because it was not printed on the set list taped to the stage, that I took a peek at before the show. Another beautiful, melodic ballad by Dennis, that takes its name from a song that Styx were approached to right for the film Dune, that ultimately never materialized. Jimmy Lahey took lead guitar on this, handling the role previously filled by Dennis’ guitarist, Tommy Dziallo, giving his own take on this classic.

The addition of Zadra, and Lahey, is a nice change from having seen Dennis before. While Dennis’ material is great, Tommy Shaw, and James Young contributed a lot of classic hits to the band as well. While the difference in artistic vision is ultimately what led to the separation of the band, I feel it was exactly this divergence in styles that made the band strong.

While a classic Styx reunion seems unlikely, seeing Dennis DeYoung perform with his band will be a wonderful alternative.

Words and Photos by Josh Chaikin

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