When I was a teenager listening to STYX’s “Pieces of Eight” LP over and over and over in my bedroom, I never dreamed someday I would be only a few feet away from Tommy Shaw and James Young as they belted out my favorite songs of all time. But there I was Friday night inthe photo pit at Ruoff Mortgage Music Center, snapping pictures of these legendary artists doing what they love. Believe it or not, it was my first time seeing STYX live. Although I’ve always been a big fan, I couldn’t afford tickets when they were doing stadium tours, and while I was raising my kids I just didn’t go to many concerts. So I was super excited when I found out I was approved to cover STYX on their co-headlining “Live and Unzoomed” Tour with REO Speedwagon with support from Loverboy.
Although STYX has broken up a couple times and switched out a few members, the current lineup is tight and cohesive. The vocals of James “J.Y” Young (guitar), Tommy Shaw (guitar) and Lawrence Gowan (keyboard) are strong and true, the strings of Ricky Phillips (bass) and Will Evankovic (guitar) are energetic, and the drums of Todd Sucherman are fierce. Founding member and bassist Chuck Panozzo also made a special appearance late in the set, much to the delight of the crowd.
Tommy Shaw and Lawrence Gowan did most of the talking between songs, relaying some of the band’s history, honoring the founding members, and recognizingJ.Y. for performing on every STYX album and played at every live show. Every member of the band was engaging, but I have to confess I was drawn most to keyboardist/vocalist Lawrence Gowan. What a showman he is! His spinning keyboard, killer dance moves and unbelievable athleticism, along with his distinct vocals (especially on “Lady”), were incredibly entertaining.
The set started with “The Fight of Our Lives,” a single from their latest album, “Crash of the Crown,” and ended with “Renegade.” In between were all the fan favorites such as The Grand Illusion, Too Much Time on My Hands, and Come Sail Away.
When the first three songs were over and we left the photo pit, the first thing I said to one of my fellow photographers was, “THIS is why I love concert photography. (Despite the long nights and impossible odds.)” After photographing so many talented, but inexperienced young artists who don’t engage the crowd or who don’t have the polish yet of seasoned performers like STYX, this band was an absolute joy to cover.
The Live and Unzoomed Tour will continue through September 2022. More information can be found here: https://www.livenationentertainment.com/2022/02/new-dates-added-to-reo-speedwagon-styx-co-headline-u-s-summer-live-unzoomed-tour-with-loverboy/