Lead singers leaving (quitting or getting fired) from rock bands are not exactly an anomaly. Foreigner, Journey, and Judas Priest are just a handful of examples. All ventured on with new front men (the replacements often sounding like copycats of the original singers) and in some cases re-joined with their original vocalist. Styx is one of those super groups of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s that have also ventured down this familiar path. As a founding member of Styx, Dennis DeYoung wrote and sang some of the groups biggest hits, eight of their Top 10 songs to be exact. With a career spanning over 40 years there isn’t anything DeYoung hasn’t done; singer, songwriter, composer, record producer, and keyboardist.
He and his music have also appeared in movies and on television. “Come Sail Away,” was featured in the Disney movie, ‘Atlantis.’ Though my personal favorite version of the song is by Eric Cartman of the comedy central cartoon “South Park.” Dennis’ unmistakable voice can also be heard in the Adam Sandler films “Big Daddy,” and “8 Crazy Nights”. A spoof of “Mr. Roboto,” was featured in the Mike Myers film “Austin Powers – Goldmember.” Ja Rule covered the unreleased Styx song “Castle Walls,” and Foxy Brown sampled “Light Up.”
“Dennis DeYoung: The Music Of Styx – The Reopening,” (the official billing of his show) is the ultimate greatest hits show, and tonight it was the Hard Rock Live that got to experience 30 years of musical history. His stage set design was simple but was in classic rock style. Booming sound, throbbing lights, a backdrop that consisted of the front of a theater (hence the ‘Reopening’ connection) and a surprise or two made the show an entertainment phenomenon. Opening with, “The Grand Illusion,” DeYoung (age 65 – time does fly) took the stage dressed in a black vest, black pants and purple shirt and tie. Looking more like an accountant than a rock star his image metamorphosed the moment he began to sing. Jokingly he introduced himself to the audience by saying, “I’m Dennis DeYoung; (thunderous applause) I used to play keyboards and sing lead for the band Styx (taking a bow).” Then quickly exclaimed, “Good night,” in true tongue-in-cheek rock style. You gotta love a guy with a sense of humor and let’s fly off the cuff.
Into the superset we go; beginning with his hit “Lady,” DeYoung grabbed the crowd and never let go. It was obvious audience participation and camera phone lights held high (ala the bic lighters from years past) were going to be a theme for the evening. Upon introducing his song “Show Me the Way,” he remarked, “I wrote this for my son in 1991. I would like to dedicate it to the men and women in our armed forces. If it weren’t for them we wouldn’t be enjoying an evening like this.” His band was right on par and gave the classic songs a full and more resonant loud sound. The signature harmonies of Styx were well represented and sounded amazing soaring through the arena. Guitarists August Zadra and Jimmy Leahey, Bassist Craig Carter, keyboardist John Blasucci, vocalist Suzanne DeYoung (Dennis’ wife) and drummer Tom Sharpe hit all the right notes and played off each other like a band that’s been together for years.
All the songs we expected to hear were present and accounted for during the 75 minute set. DeYoung displayed boundless energy and never missed a beat or hit a sour note often putting forth some dance moves and air guitar gestures. The man’s vocal chops are firmly in place and filled the arena with a clarity that only the acoustics of the Hard Rock could muster. But don’t make the mistake of thinking this was going to be an evening of power ballads and little else. DeYoung and his band rocked the house like it was no ones business. “Too Much Time On My Hands,” raised the roof and kicked the decibel level up quite a few notches. The iconic “Mr. Roboto,” followed suit (with his Kilroy mask in hand and robotic dance moves) as “Rockin’ The Paradise,” did just that. The audience of the Hard Rock was collectively rocking its tush off. The more romantic and theatrical moments came with memorable renditions of “Babe,” which DeYoung dedicated to his wife of 42 years. On “The Best Of Times,” he added the wonderful surprise of ending the song with a version of The Beatles “The End,” (one of my all time favorite songs) and of course he couldn’t leave out “Lady.” Upon beginning an acoustic version of “Don’t Let It End,” De Young announced he and his guitarist Chris were available to play Bar Mitzvahs. They then began playing a rousing version of “Hava Nagila.” To wild applause and cheers, DeYoung broadly smiled and waved to the audience.
The encore in itself was a classic moment. “You know what happens now.” DeYoung remarked to the audience with a huge smile on his face, “This is the part of the show where we go off stage and pretend not to come back. You applaud and scream and we come back out. Let’s skip all that and say we did it already.” To a standing ovation Dennis and the band kicked into a rabble rousing version of “Renegade,” and ended with the house lights turned up on the audience. It was our turn to sing with DeYoung on “Come Sail Away.” Everyone in attendance had a grand time and walked away knowing they had seen and heard a great rock spectacle.
Dennis DeYoung: The Music Of Styx – The Reopening, rocked the paradise, the Hard Rock and every rock music fans dream. It remains unclear as to whether or not DeYoung will once again be the front man for Styx (rumors say he is open to the idea), either way his music will sail on through the best of times.