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National Beat: Dennis DeYoung Styx It To a Receptive Crowd at The Nugget

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Dennis DeYoung playing at The Nugget

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by Nick McCabe - Front Row Photo

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I thought this would be a sweet little show to take my honey to for Valentine’s Day. You know - the kind of show with love songs and ballads like, “Lady”, “Babe” and “Madame Blue”. There were those songs, but that was just where you caught your breath and held hands. What an underestimation on my part! This show barely fit in the room! It was huge.

The word on the street was that this was the first time in a long, long time that The Nugget opened up the balcony to accommodate the demand for a show. Dennis DeYoung walked out to a grand ovation and started off with “The Grand Illusion”, a song about the superficiality of success in the music business that helped catapult Dennis and Styx to super-stardom back in the late 70’s. Since this was the song that I remember as ‘the’ Styx song from my youth, I was already on cloud nine. They followed this up with one of those aforementioned love songs, “Lady” (we held hands).

Dennis brought an amazing presence to the stage. He was making dramatic gestures to the crowd, having fun posing, and he even pretended that he threw his shoulder out during one of those dramatic gestures, making fun of his age. During the entire show Dennis was putting out the effort to give the audience the show they came to see. He selected a talented group of performers to wrap around himself. Most notable to me were the two guitarists / vocalists (Jimmy Leahey and August Zadra) who are vastly talented, have the ‘Styx’ vocal range and all the rock star poses. I say that about these two players because they fit the Styx profile so perfectly. Their style, their vocal range and their performance were perfect for Styx tunes. This is not to slight the other band members. Everybody stepped up and handled the demands of ‘rock stardom’ perfectly. To round things out, the band consists of John Blasucci on keyboards, Tom Sharpe on drums, and Craig Carter on bass. On backup vocals was Dennis' wife of 44 years, Suzanne. When Dennis introduced her as his wife I thought it was a joke, because she does not look like she is even out of her 30’s, but holy ‘fountain of youth’, I’m still not convinced. Near the end of the show he brought his sister out to sing backup for several songs. There was no shortage of energy and talent on the stage that night. I encourage you to follow the link (click here) to Dennis' site and read about his band...after you finish reading my article of course.

Though I tried very hard I couldn’t remember all the songs they played, but they did hit a lot of high notes (pun intended). Among the songs not mentioned yet were “Blue Collar Man”, “Show Me The Way”, “Mr. Roboto”, “Desert Moon” (from one of Dennis’ solo albums), “Crystal Ball”, “Don’t Let It End”, “Too Much Time On My Hands”, “Rockin’ The Paradise”, “You’re Fooling Yourself”, “America”, “The Best of Times”, “Renegade”, and they wrapped it up after over two hours with “Sailing Away”. What an amazing set of original songs. The house went crazy when they played “Renegade” and “Sailing Away”. This was the perfect way to end the show. I found it funny that after “The Best Of Times” he said, “This is where we pretend to leave, walk off the stage and make you wait until we come back. We’ll just skip that part and keep going.” I don’t think you could hear that many hits listening to two hours of Casey Kasem’s American Top 40!

I’ve never seen Styx, and this was the first time I saw Dennis DeYoung. What I saw was a man who has been performing professionally for over forty years, who’s got it down, who has fun doing it and wants his audience to have fun experiencing it. People were handing him albums to sign during the show, and he would oblige them. One person handed him a cassette tape and he stuffed it in his pocket and pretended to keep it. He was having a good time. We were having a good time. It was the best of times.

…and the beat goes on.

For a more complete slide show, click here.

Nick McCabe can be reached at: Nick.frontrowphoto@gmail.com

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