Styx/REO Speedwagon, USANA Amphitheatre, Sept 23 – concert review

WEST VALLEY CITY – In the 1970s and ’80s, Styx and REO Speedwagon made albums, not singles.

Friday night at USANA Amphitheatre, the two rock band heavyweights celebrated some of their biggest albums. In doing so, both bands dug refreshingly deep into their list of “songs rarely played.”

Chciago-based Styx opened their set with a string of big radio hits including “Blue Collar Man (Long Nights),” “The Grand Illusion,” “Lady” and “Lorelei.”

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Paradise Theater, one of Styx’ biggest selling albums. It followed a string of multi-platinum releases in the ’70s and early ’80s for the band that also included The Grand Illusion and Pieces of Eight.

Friday, Styx dug deep into those albums, dusting off songs like, “Man in the Wilderness,” “I’m O.K.” and the title track from Pieces of Eight.

Tommy Shaw’s voice is still very strong after nearly 40 years of performing, as it was on his first hit with the band, “Crystal Ball.”

The classic harmonies that make the Styx sound were also in fine form as Shaw, along with James “JY” Young, Lawrence Gowan and Ricky Phillips, sounded like a band who have been playing together a long time. And drummer Todd Sucherman put on a clinic with solos and even subtle fills that at times were jaw dropping.

For die-hard Styx fans, it was a great show. For casual Styx fans, it was a really good show, but it may have been nice to add an extra song that was a little more well known (“Rockin’ The Paradise” maybe?).

As for openers REO Speedwagon, it was like the REO of old.

I had been a little disappointed with the past couple of REO performances in Utah. When Styx and REO played together in Utah in 2009 at Rio Tinto Stadium, Styx was the better of the two bands that night.

Friday night at USANA, it was REO that came out on top. They opened with “Don’t Let Him Ago” as they have for numerous other appearances in Utah. But from there, they refreshingly mixed up the set list and also dug deep into their catalog, pulling out some old rockers that brought some fantastic energy to their performance.

The band is celebrating the 30th anniversary of their biggest album, Hi Infidelity (although technically it turns 31 this year). Kevin Cronin and crew dedicated the first part of their concert to playing a good portion of that album. Yes, they played the big hits like “Keep On Loving You” and “Take It On The Run.” But they also pulled out gems like “In Your Letter,” “Tough Guys” and “Someone Tonight.”

For the rest of the show, it was a great mix of hits, such as “Time For Me To Fly,” “Keep Pushin’,” “Can’t Fight This Feeling,” “Roll With The Changes” and “Ridin’ The Storm Out” combined with some deeper tracks.

“Like You Do,” off 1972’s R.E.O./T.W.O., was one of the best songs of the night and a great addition to the set list. Much of that was due to guitarist Dave Amato who may have played the best he ever has in Utah, shredding solo after solo and crunching guitar chord after chord. “Golden Country,” also from 1972, was another deeper that cut was in the set list in 2009, but still sounded relevant today.

The comradeship between the two bands was evident was Shaw and Amato took turns playing guitar tech for the other during one song of each band’s set.

It was an older crowd at USANA Friday. And although it wasn’t the biggest crowd of the year, for a solid rock package, an evening with Styx and REO Speedwagon is still worth the ticket price.

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