Sail away with Styx
In the early ’70s, Styx became the first band to release four consecutive albums that went multi-platinum — and that’s before any of their real hits would come. The combination of the vocal stylings of original singer and power ballad icon Dennis DeYoung with the songwriting prowess of guitarist Tommy Shaw brought Styx to even greater heights in the years that followed, starting with 1981’s concept album, “Paradise Theater.”
The catalogue of hits included one-time radio staples “Come Sail Away,” “Fooling Yourself,” “Lady” and “Suite Madame Blue” and helped Styx sell more than 50 million records worldwide.
As power ballads made way for other music in the ’90s, both Shaw and DeYoung branched out for new opportunities and Styx would reunite here and there with some semblance of the original lineup, though original drummer John Panozzo passed away and Lawrence Gowan took over for DeYoung in 1997 as lead singer.
In 2003, Shaw was determined to make Styx viable again and recruited former Bad English guitarist Ricky Phillips to join him, Gowan and longtime members Chuck Panozzo and James Young. Todd Sucherman was later added on drums.
Over the past 15 years, the band has re-established itself as one of the best touring rock bands in the world. Connecticut residents will get a chance to see that for themselves when Styx heads to the Stamford Palace Theatre on May 23.
Keith Loria: In 2017, the band released its 16th studio album, “The Mission,” which continues to be a big hit with fans. Why is it important for you and the guys to continue to release new music?
Lawrence Gowan: There was a long hiatus of 14 years between the first album I did with the band and this one, but it’s a misconception that we don’t have new things. We are constantly working on new stuff. We have new ideas all the time, but it’s not mandatory that we have to put out new material, but we loved that music so much, we knew we had to release it. I think a lot of bands are reluctant to put out new material but part of the lifeblood of being a musician is looking for new and novel approaches to things.
KL: Preview what fans can expect from the show at the Palace Theatre.
LG: What we have in store for Stamford is this adventure we have been working on for years. As far as the set list goes, we continue to focus on the Big 4 albums—“The Grand Illusion,” “Pieces of Eight,” “Paradise Theatre” and “Cornerstone.” We’ll also play at least a couple of songs from “The Mission” because that album continues to gather more and more listeners. We even did a sold-out show playing that album in its entirety in Las Vegas earlier this year. It doesn’t show any signs of letting up. We expect the show to please everyone.
KL: Describe what’s happening in the dressing room while you’re getting ready to go out on stage.
LG: Up until the last moment, we are constantly kicking around new riffs and ideas and it’s part of the whole mélange of what we enjoy doing.
KL: You’ve been with Styx for a long time now. What is it about the band’s songs that you feel people still are drawn to.
LG: I’m now entering my 2Ist year. First and foremost, they came up with melodies and lyrical content that was relatable across generations, and I’ve witnessed that throughout my time with them. Those songs came out at a time when it was such worldwide interest in what rock music was. The music had much more substance. From what I’ve seen, the music has crossed generations. Styx is a band that has the melodic content to stay with people.
KL: How would you characterize the band today?
LG: We are the culmination of everyone who has ever been in the band, and that’s coming up on 50 years. When you’re closing in on that kind of length, it shows you’ve made some astute decisions along the way that’s led to survival. That’s not true of very many bands. We’re surviving, thriving and finding new, faithful listeners who weren’t even born when some of our biggest records were made and there’s magic in that.
KL: For this tour, you’ll be playing “Mr. Roboto” for the first time since you joined the band. Why was that decision made?
LG: We started discussing the song a few years ago; it’s survived a long time and is quoted in movies and it’s used as cultural reference. It’s gone from being looked upon as a kitschy song to something that has made a musical statement, so why not play it? I wasn’t around when Tommy, JY and Chuck went through what they did on the tour of that record, which ultimately led to the disharmony among the band members. But they’ve always been open to the idea of doing something from that record. I’m going to really surprise you — it’s the first time any of us have played the song live.
KL: How could that be?
LG: We rehearsed it for two days, and half way through the first day, Tommy couldn’t remember what he played live and JY couldn’t either. Finally, Todd spoke up and said, ‘I remember what you did, what you guys did live because I was 13 and at the show in Chicago, and neither of you were on stage when it was performed because Dennis sang it to a track.’ Sure enough, the two of them went to YouTube and found a live clip and realized he was right. So, we really learned it as a band, how to do it live and we just played it all together for the first time. It’s back and people are loving it as they should.