With almost a month going by since my last show, I was starting to have withdrawals. My 1st show of 2023 had arrived and I couldn’t have asked for more. The iconic rock band Styx was in town and the top-notch Dr. Phillips Center For The Performing Arts was playing host. I’ve covered shows throughout Central Florida and one would be hard-pressed to find a classier venue. From the staff to the facilities, this is a first-rate establishment. I have seen Styx twice before, Paradise Theater and Kilroy Was Here, but it has been a really long time. Interestingly enough, Paradise Theater celebrated its 42nd birthday earlier this week. I was really looking forward to the show and was curious to see if Styx could conjure up the sound and energy that I remember from those 80s’ shows.
Tonight’s show had sold out days ago and the evidence could be seen in the throngs of concertgoers that were streaming toward the picturesque Dr. Phillips Center. I didn’t have a lot of time to waste thanks to a minor parking snafu, but thankfully the check-in process was quick and painless. As I readied my gear at the soundboard, I was able to do a quick study of the stage, which was left uncovered. The artwork from the band’s 2021 album Crash Of The Crown served as the backdrop and it towered above a very interesting stage design. The drum kit was placed in the rear center and to its left was a rotating keyboard platform. Stairs were located at both ends and they accessed a catwalk that traversed the entire length of the stage.
Right around 8:00 pm the house lights dimmed, and it was time to kick this show off. The audience greeted the band with a jubilant ovation, and they responded with “The Fight Of Our Lives,” from the Crash Of The Crown album. At only 1:54, the 1st of my 3 allotted songs to photograph was gone in the blink of an eye. Next up was “Blue Collar Man” from the monster-hit album Pieces Of Eight. This song has what is arguably the most recognizable intro of any Styx song, and the largely seated crowd was now standing. Keyboardist/vocalist Lawrence Gowan has been with Styx since 1999 and his charisma and showmanship are stellar. Dressed in all white, his “Khedive” jacket also sported patches of Batman, Superman, The Joker and David Bowie. After seeing Tommy Shaw bring his white Gibson to life, I’m convinced he has the Fountain of Youth tucked away on their tour bus, or at the very least, a considerable-sized sample.
For the performance of “Lady,” co-founding member and bassist Chuck Panozzo was invited onstage, the 1st of his several appearances throughout the evening. I would’ve loved to have gotten a photo or 2, however my release didn’t allow it. Panozzo was welcomed warmly by the crowd, who not only recognized his musical contributions, but also the fact that he is the epitome of class. One of my favorite highlights of the night was when Shaw grabbed his acoustic guitar and sang 1977’s “Man In The Wilderness,” an epic song and a passionate performance.
Gowan took a moment to introduce the band, including “the man from Alabama,” Tommy Shaw, long-time drummer Todd Sucherman, bassist Ricky Phillips, and newest member, guitarist Will Evankovich. Gowan also pointed out that Evankovich had co-written and produced the band’s 2 most recent albums, 2017’s The Mission and 2021’s Crash Of The Crown. Gowan saved his most elaborate introduction for the prodigious and elegant guitarist, James “J.Y.” Young, referring to him as “a man, a mountain, the godfather of Styx, the cat in the hat and the master of the Stratocaster.”
As “Rockin’ The Paradise” began, someone tossed Gowan a sparkling black jacket and top hat. This was a cue to vacate his rotating perch and dance enthusiastically across the stage. The 1st set concluded with 1981’s “Too Much Time On My Hands,” and Shaw reminded the fans that the song was featured in the 1st hour of play, on the very 1st day of MTV’s inception. After a 20-minute intermission the band picked up right where they left off. The 2nd set was stacked with hits such as “Suite Madame Blue” and “Fooling Yourself.” Panozzo joined Gowan onstage and together they stood in the spotlight while Gowan sang “Lost At Sea.” At the conclusion, Gowan asked Panozzo if he thought the crowd was ready. A huge applause reverberated throughout the venue because the fans knew what was coming next. Gowan began playing the piano intro for the mega-ballad “Come Sail Away” and the capacity crowd of 2700 sang along. What followed for the next 8 minutes or so was nothing short of magical. As the tempo quickened, the stage lit up and smoke billowed throughout. Gowan stood atop his actual keyboard and then jetted up to the catwalk. This rendition was so good it could of easily been the encore, but it was not.
The stage glowed red as the 2-song encore began with the unmistakable sounds of “Mr. Roboto.” To be completely honest, it’s not my favorite song, but the band did it justice and the crowd seemed to enjoy it. The ever-popular “Renegade” was saved for last. Shaw killed the vocals on this one. I think the 1st time I ever heard this song was at the skating rink on a Friday night back around 1980 or 1981. This song withstands all tests of time and was a great choice to end a great show.
For those of you considering whether or not to check out this tour, I’ll leave you with this. Styx has been doing this for more than 50 years and the result is a well-polished, great sounding and tremendously entertaining production. I count myself as fortunate to have seen Styx when Dennis DeYoung and John Panozzo were part of the band, but I’m not exaggerating when I say that the Styx I saw tonight has not skipped a beat. The performance was invigorating and very reminiscent of the Styx of old. Do yourself a favor and grab some tickets now.
James “J.Y.” Young – Lead vocals, guitars
Tommy Shaw – Lead vocals, guitars
Chuck Panozzo – Bass, vocals
Todd Sucherman – Drums, percussion
Lawrence Gowan – Lead vocals, keyboards
Ricky Phillips – Bass, guitar, vocals
Will Evankovich – Guitar
1.The Fight Of Our Lives
2.Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)
3.The Grand Illusion
4.Lady (w/ Chuck Panozzo)
7.Man In The Wilderness
8.Rockin’ The Paradise
9.Save Us From Ourselves
10.Pieces Of Eight
11.Too Much Time On My Hands
13.Suite Madame Blue
14.Sound The Alarm
16.Crash Of The Crown
17.Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)(w/ Chuck Panozzo)
19.Lost At Sea (w/ Chuck Panozzo)
20.Come Sail Away (w/ Chuck Panozzo)
22.Renegade (w/ Chuck Panozzo)
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