Styx triumphs in classic rock triple bill

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WEST VALLEY CITY — Three big name veterans of the classic rock world made a stop in Utah on Tuesday night for the United We Rock Tour.

But only one of those bands stood out far and above the rest.

REO Speedwagon, Styx and Don Felder – who co-wrote and played lead guitar on many of the Eagles biggest hits – can be heard daily on radio stations across the nation. Songs like “Keep On Loving You,” “Renegade,” and “Hotel California” are some of the biggest classic rock songs ever written.

But at the USANA Amphitheater on Tuesday, it was Styx who easily rose above the others and crushed their set. A big part of that was because the band came armed with a new album and seemingly renewed enthusiasm.

Styx released their album The Mission earlier this month, and it has already garnered critical acclaim, being compared to the band’s epic progressive albums of the ‘70s such as Paradise Theatre, Pieces of Eight and The Grand Illusion.

The band opened their set with the album’s first song, “Gone Gone Gone,” a bold risk considering 95% of the audience didn’t know it. But it turned out to be a great move. The song sounded both fresh and like it came from the classic Styx catalog all at the same time. And the band seemed much more energized playing it.

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“Thanks for coming pre-heated,” Gowan told the crowd, referring to both the warm summer night and the unrelenting sunlight that hammered the west facing USANA stage for most of their set.

Later, Styx played “Radio Silence,” another song off The Mission. Yes, the band also played all the hits that fans paid to hear: “Blue Collar Man (Long Nights),” “Too Much Time On My Hands,” “Come Sail Away,” “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man),” and more. And this month also marks the 40th anniversary of The Grand Illusion.

But it was the new material that made the band’s set sound fresher than past summer tours. The new songs mixed in perfectly with the older material. For many fans, the songs reminded them of that feeling they had hearing songs like “The Grand Illusion” or “Rockin’ The Paradise” for the first time in concert.

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Also working to Styx’ advantage is the fact Tommy Shaw, James “JY” Young and Lawrence Gowan still have vocal chops. Not only are they great showmen, but they can still sing! And Todd Sucherman continues to amaze behind the drum kit. It never gets old watching him play. Sucherman could be the opening act with a 30 minute drum solo and people would watch.

Original Styx bassist and band co-founder Chuck Panozzo also made an appearance Tuesday night, joining current bassist (and former Utah resident) Ricky Phillips for the last four songs.

The USANA crowd was a good mix of young people and those who saw Styx play in the ‘70s. Shaw thanked the parents in the audience who supported music and their children learning to play instruments, and jokingly thanked them for tolerating the aspiring musicians in their home and allowing them practice in the basement or garage.

“You never know what might happen,” he said.

REO Speedwagon and Don Felder played essentially the same sets as last year, with a few variations of where the songs fell on the set list. But it was Styx who really put the large USANA crowd on their feet.

For anyone on the fence about seeing Styx this summer because of concern it will be the same show you’ve already seen, you’ll thank yourself later for going. Hopefully once the summer is over, Styx will get to headlining their own shows and play more off The Mission.

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