Prog-rock superstars Styx, easily one of the most popular American bands of the late 1970s and early 1980s, shed its sometimes theatrical performance side and delivered an old school arena-style rock show Friday night at Pechanga Resort & Casino.
Relying on the twin guitar attack of Tommy Shaw and James “JY” Young, and keeping its distance from former lead singer Dennis DeYoung’s softer, more ballad-heavy and sci-fi selections, Styx revved it up and served the sold-out audience one grandiose rocker after another.
Styx exemplifies the prototypical meat and potatoes Midwestern rock band. And that’s not a bad thing.
From the opening shot across the bow of “Blue Collar Man” to showstopper “Lady” to the big, sweeping mid-tempo rocker “Man In The Wilderness,” Styx performed as if they were headlining the L.A. Forum.
“This is such a cool gig for us,” admitted co-lead guitarist/vocalist and probably the band’s most recognizable member Tommy Shaw.
I’m sure part of the cool factor this evening was because original Styx bass player (and the group’s co-founder) Chuck Panozzo was in the house, joining the band on three numbers, including “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)” and the set’s closer “Renegade.”
Longtime fans of the band rejoiced at the reunion.
Though the band’s three main vocalists all took turns throughout the evening, it was keyboardist Lawrence Gowan who sang original Styx lead singer Dennis DeYoung’s parts, and quite admirably, I must say. “Lady” and “Come Sail Away” never sounded better.
Perhaps the most endearing highlight of the evening took place each time one of the Styx members “posed” for a photo while performing.
Whether it was Tommy taking center stage soloing or bassist Ricky Phillips coming over to say “hi” to the fans in the corner of the stage, the crowd was free to take photos and videos via their cellphones. It’s easy to see that the band genuinely loves the personal connection with their beloved fans.
Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are surely loaded with these photos. Smart marketing.
The fans in front of the stage, those who made up the “general admission” section typically not allowed at Pechanga’s theater-style setup, were the main benefactors and amateur photographers. “Riding the rail” comes with benefits.
But so many of today’s artists do the exact opposite. They make it a venue policy to prevent the crowd — their fans — from taking fun, once-in-a-lifetime, cherished mementos.
Kudos, Styx. No wonder your fans unconditionally love you.
For further information on upcoming shows at Pechanga Resort & Casino, visit www.pechanga.com.
Chris Baptiste is a local writer and regular contributor to SWRNN.