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Band in the wilderness: Styx lights up Boise Wednesday night

Styx live at the Morrison Center, Boise , Idaho January 29, 2014Lawrence Gowan
Styx live at the Morrison Center, Boise , Idaho January 29, 2014Lawrence Gowan
Rustyn Rose

Styx 2014 Boise Concert

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Styx is one of the most iconic rock bands in American history, and Wednesday night’s performance at The Morrison Center was a prime example of why they continue to resonate with rock fans around the world. Styx knows its audience: Weeknight show, older demographic, get on early, play your hearts out, send them home happy. The band did not bother with an opening act; they did not need someone to warm up the mostly 40 and 50-something crowd. They simply took the stage at 7:45 and rocked the house with nearly two hours of classic tunes.

Tommy Shaw and Ricky Phillips rock the Morrison Center
Rustyn Rose

The band powered out the gate with five back-to-back hits beginning with “Blue Collar Man”, “The Grand Illusion” and “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)”, followed by the classics, “Lady” and “Lorelei”. The latter featured guitarist James “JY” Young on vocals, who took over that task following the departure of former keyboardist Dennis DeYoung. Vocalist and keyboardist Lawrence Gowan, took over most of DeYoung’s vocal duties with this odd exception. It was a treat for fans who have not seen the band in recent years.

In 2011, Styx did a special mini-tour performing the complete, “The Grand Illusion” and “Pieces of Eight” albums together. They released this on DVD in 2012. After kicking the dust off of a few older deep cuts they had not played in years, the band shared some of them with the Boise audience. The first of these was “Man in the Wilderness”, from 1977’s “The Grand Illusion”, which featured fantastic dual guitar work from Tommy Shaw and Young. They followed this with “Miss America” from the same album. Deeper cuts from “Pieces of Eight” included “I’m OK”, and after a Gowan piano interlude, the title cut.

One of the evening’s real surprises was the band’s rare performance of “Light Up” from 1975’s “Equinox”; the last Styx album released prior to Shaw joining the band. Shaw brought out the 12-string acoustic and regaled the crowd with the first song he wrote for the band, which turned out to be the title track, from 1976’s “Crystal Ball”.

In 2004, Styx performed a cover of The Beatles “I Am the Walrus” at Eric Clapton's Crossroads Festival. It went over so well, the band recorded a full covers album, “Big Bang Theory” in 2005. Boise got to see, hear and help the band sing the song Wednesday night.

Winding the evening down, Shaw and company got the crowd involved on their hit “Too Much Time on My Hands” from 1981’s “Paradise Theater” album. Gowan, who spent years as a solo artist in Canada before joining Styx full-time in 1999, teased the crowd with a medley of classic rock tunes like “Rocket Man”, “Can’t Always Get What You Want”, “Live and Let Die”, “Light My Fire” and “Another Brick in the Wall” as a prelude to the show closer, “Come Sail Away”.

Styx returned for a double shot encore, playing “Rockin’ the Paradise” and their standard finale, “Renegade”. The guys then graciously shook hands and popped photos with those close to the stage, and tossed out free Styx swag to the enthusiastic crowd.

In all, it was an amazing performance by five incredible musicians who have toured so relentlessly that they are fluid and seemingly effortless in their delivery. The rhythm section of bassist Ricky Phillips and drummer Todd Sucherman are as solid and talented as they come. If not for the banter and occasional ad libs and twists during the show, one could swear they were listening to the records. More than four decades since the band’s inception, Styx continues to be one of rock’s best live acts and last night just added more credibility to their legendary resume.