The average American’s vocabulary of Japanese is probably limited to the word “sushi.” But the average American classic rock fan also knows at least one Japanese phrase, “domo arigato,” thanks to the teachings of former Styx lead singer and keyboard player, Dennis DeYoung. On Saturday night, May 10, 2014, a near sell-out crowd constantly told Dennis DeYoung and his band, “thank you very much” during DeYoung’s one hour and fifty minute show at the Wild Horse Pass Casino Ovations LIVE! Showroom in Chandler.
The thank yous were well deserved. The performance was billed as “Dennis DeYoung: The Music of Styx.” Rather than limit his set list to just the Styx songs DeYoung wrote, which included six Billboard Top Ten singles, DeYoung also included five songs written by Styx guitarist, Tommy Shaw. If you say you’re going to perform “the music of Styx” and you include three songs off of Styx’s triple-platinum selling album, “The Grand Illusion" (1977), you better include Shaw’s “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)” in addition to DeYoung’s “The Grand Illusion” and “Come Sail Away.” DeYoung did not disappoint.
Given that Styx played in Scottsdale just less than four months ago, it’s inevitable to compare the two performances. Yes, there is a difference but it really comes down to song selection. Both performers can rock and both performers can play the ballads. The pace of DeYoung’s concert may be slower at times but you can blame that on his wife, Suzanne, who sings backup in DeYoung’s band. If not for her inspiration, DeYoung never would have written “Lady” and “Babe,” both songs which are must hear from the Styx catalog.
Keyboardist John Blasucci started out the evening, playing the synthesized notes to “The Message,” as the other band members, guitarists August Zadra and Jimmy Leahey, drummer Tom Sharpe and bass player Craig Carter took the stage. Then Blasucci hit the familiar chords that introduce “The Grand Illusion,” and the man and voice so familiar to Styx fans walked out, waving to those in attendance and nailing the opening vocals with his spine tingling rendition.
From his stage demeanor and musical interpretation, it was evident that DeYoung’s theatrical side would be in full force. Nothing wrong with that at all. Throughout the evening, DeYoung was such a charming and talented entertainer, you almost forgot that he is a first class song writer and keyboard player as well.
But the reminder to DeYoung’s keyboard playing abilities came quick enough as he played the introduction to “Lady” on his piano. The audience was quick to vocally join in and the band rocked the second half of the song.
Zadra and Leahey continued their guitar interplay for “Lorelei” and although most of the audience had sat down by now, it didn’t stop them from head bobbing in their seats. DeYoung interacted with his guitarists as well. It appeared those on stage were having as good a time as those in the audience.
As he would all night for the Tommy Shaw penned Styx songs, Zadra took over the vocals for “Blue Collar Man (Long Nights).” The crowd easily embraced his effort, many back on their feet and a majority clapping along.
Then began the Dennis DeYoung section of the concert (i.e. songs you won’t hear at a Styx concert). First up was “Show Me the Way,” off of Styx’s 1990 album, “Edge of the Century.” Originally written for DeYoung’s son, the song has been adopted as a tribute to all those who serve in the military. Once again DeYoung’s vocals were transcendent.
Next up was the guilty pleasure that is “Mr. Roboto.” DeYoung did his robot moves, pulled out the famous or infamous, depending on your point of view, robot mask that was used in the 1983 music video and when he asked the audience what his name was, they enthusiastically shouted “Kilroy.” One couldn’t help but be reminded of the 1999 Volkswagen commercial with Tony Hale which featured the song. Domo arigato Mr. DeYoung for including the number in the evening’s work.
The one nod to DeYoung’s solo career was “Desert Moon,” a song which he mentioned “was not a Styx song but should have been a Styx song.” Instead it was a top ten song for DeYoung’s solo career and still remains a showstopper. Leahey’s guitar solo drew heavy applause and once again the audience was back on their feet showing their appreciation.
The pace quickened again for “Too Much Time on My Hands,” and “Rockin’ the Paradise.” The latter song featured two blazing guitar solos by both Leahey and Zadra. Instrumentally and vocally, the songs were in good hands.
The cell phones were up and recording as DeYoung sang a song he wrote as a birthday present for his wife (DeYoung admitted he also gave in and bought her some jewelry as well), Styx’s only number one song, “Babe.” At the song’s end, DeYoung presented his wife with some roses in honor of Mother’s Day and stated that he “married his trophy wife first.”
It would be difficult to pick just one highlight from the evening, but certainly “Suite Madame Blue,” would be a top contender. Leahey got things started with some nice 12 string acoustic guitar work. DeYoung’s vocals were jaw dropping. The harmonies were spot on. DeYoung performed some mesmerizing keyboard work. Both Leahey and Zadra cut loose during the song’s second half with more stupendous guitar playing. The song was everyone doing the absolute best at what they did.
Aptly ending the regular set was “The Best of Times/A.D. 1958.” It seemed too early for the band to say goodnight as the evening had just flown by. But there were enough “don’t let it end” thoughts from the audience to make sure DeYoung had not yet called it a night.
For one who had embraced theatrics, DeYoung dispensed with the same, remaining onstage rather than going off, joking that neither the band nor the audience had to pretend that an encore was forthcoming. But the spirit of an encore ensued, with the rocking “Renegade,” and the heavily sang-a-long “Come Sail Away,” closing the show. The audience was up, the band tore it up on stage and the memories of Paradise were going to be kept alive for another evening.
Dennis DeYoung may have sailed away from his former bandmates in Styx but he still carries on the music of Styx. Should you want to hear a complete catalog of Styx hits live, these days you might have to attend both a Styx concert and a Dennis DeYoung concert. But that’s not such a bad thing. After all, if you haven’t seen Dennis DeYoung in concert before, as he stated “where the hell ya been? I’m 67.”
Set list: The Message | The Grand Illusion | Lady | Lorelei | Blue Collar Man (Long Nights) | Show Me The Way | Mr. Roboto | Crystal Ball | Desert Moon | Too Much Time on My Hands | Rockin’ the Paradise | Babe | Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man) | Suite Madame Blue | The Best of Times/Intro to A.D. 1958/A.D. 1958 | The End | Encore: Renegade | Come Sail Away