Ah, the wonders of Facebook. I never attended any of my high school reunions (that means I’m 0 for 5), so when I connected with a few of my girls from the past, one thing led to another and before I knew it, I bought a ticket to a Dennis DeYoung show.
I haven’t seen these chicks in 28 years, and what better way to get back to our high school roots then to see a throwback like Dennis DeYoung? Somehow this sounded appealing. The planets were aligning. I have very fond memories of Styx the same way I can’t get enough of XM’s 70s channel. It’s the era I grew up in! Aren’t we all beholden to the music of our tweens? The Grand Illusion (1977), Pieces of Eight (1978), Cornerstone (1979), Paradise Theatre (1981), and Kilroy Was Here (1983) served as part of the soundtrack of my life.
In my experience, the band never hits the stage on time. The show starts at 8:00 p.m., and it’s only 8:15 as we enter the casino. WAIT A MINUTE! Is that ”Lorelei”? It’s only 8:15! Half of us run for the bathroom (we’ve got to make more room for more beer), and some of us converge at the bar for … more beer. ”Blue Collar Man” comes and goes. I’m still not convinced it’s the band. It sounds just like the record!
We find our seats. Hey, there’s a lot of grey hair in here! Do we look like we’ve aged as much as everyone else? We discuss and conclude that we all still look like we did in high school. It’s setting in that I’m on the cusp of being half a hundred years old. I feel my age for the first time since I became a teenager.
No sooner do we sit down then Dennis strikes up the band for ”Desert Moon.” Sounds GREAT! One thing is for sure, he’s one rocker who can still hit those high notes. This guy is serious. I don’t even recognize him, but it’s easy to spot the two Tommy Shaw doppelgangers who not only remind us of Tommy, but sound like Tommy! The perfect guitar solos they trade throughout the evening sound crisp and clean.
The first of the evening banter is about beating the snow in Connecticut, and sincerely appreciating the capacity crowd that came out in a) this weather and b) this economy, to see the show. This is a man who is truly grateful to those of us who paid a pretty hefty price to see him. No big corporate sponsors to bow to. Refreshing!
Suddenly the crowd rushes the stage. I bust a move out of my row and head up front to get some photos. Dennis, in all his curly grey-haired wonder, is giving it his all. He’s banging on those ivories and he hasn’t missed a beat, which is something his band hasn’t done either – missed a beat. These guys are tight. They sound like the albums. People are on their feet pumping their fists! ”Babe” (written by Dennis and former Styx-mates the Panozzo brothers) is dedicated on this night to Dennis’ wife of 40 YEARS, Suzanne, and there is Suzanne herself, singing back up. During this song I relive a high school crush. I was a freshman, he was a senior, you do the math.
The place is up for grabs when the band plays the opening notes of ”Mr. Roboto.” We rise to our feet once again as we watch Dennis break down a mean ”robot,” and then serenade a robot head. The crowd is rabid. Other fan favorites of the night include ”Fooling Yourself,” ”Too Much Time On My Hands,” ”Renegade,” ”Don’t Let It End,” ”The Best of Times,” and ”Rockin’ The Paradise.” The whole she-BANG.
Dennis doesn’t know, or doesn’t care that time has moved on. He’s into his craft. A true entertainer who enjoys what he’s doing, and knows how to have a good time doing it. Sixty-three years old, and he’s got more energy than I do. He sounds fantastic. I don’t hear any pre-recorded tracks or auto-tuning in this show. The band includes Tom Sharpe on drums, August Zadra on guitar and vocals (Tommy Shaw #1), Craig Carter on bass, keyboard player John Blasucci, and New Jersey’s own Jimmy Leahey (Tommy Shaw #2) on guitar and vocals. Leahey, by the way, has shared the stage with such notables as John Waite, Patty Smyth, Alison Krauss, and another New Jersey native who I met a couple of years ago, Glen Burtnik (who played in later versions of Styx).
”What happens now is that we leave the stage, you make a lot of noise, and we come back. Pretend that just happened,” Dennis instructs us as the band breaks into ”Come Sail Away” with the obligatory audience lead-in.
I feel the need to start the chant, ”ONE MORE! ONE MORE! ONE MORE!” as the show winds down and we eventually travel back to the present time. It’s been a great show and we leave smiling. We find the bar and begin waxing nostalgic about the good old days.
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