Canadians and Americans converged at the Colosseum at Caesars Windsor in Ontario, Canada, on September 7 to see Gowan in concert. It’s the first solo concert in months for Lawrence Gowan, the Scottish-born Canadian keyboardist and vocalist best known for hits “(You’re a) Strange Animal,” “Moonlight Desires,” and “A Criminal Mind.” That’s due to the fact that he and drummer Todd Sucherman are esteemed members of a classic rock extravaganza known as the band Styx. Last weekend in Windsor, Lawrence and Sucherman performed with two original Gowan members Bob McAlpine (guitar) and Terry Gowan (bass), Ryan Bovaird (keyboards, guitar), and Shahi Teruko (vocals, dance).
Lawrence emerged decked out in a smart kilt, boots with red laces, and a jacket. The black jacket was particularly eye catching with delicate embroidery. It practically screamed Canadian with the red sleeves and a red maple leaf adorned on the right breast. This ensemble constitutes the signature Gowan “In Kilt Tonight” look, a tasteful outfit choice.
The concert kicked off at a fast pace with “Cosmetics,” immediately showcasing the talents of newest member Teruko. She contributed wonderful vocals throughout the evening, but she also used dramatic stances and dancing to take on Lawrence as he executed his spins and high-powered footwork. He quipped later, “I have a feeling [Shahi’s] going to come out of her shell eventually.”
Not to be outdone, the performance level at the other end of the stage was imbued with liveliness by the trio of McAlpine, Bovaird, and Lawrence’s brother Terry. McAlpine played a magnificent guitar solo during “Lost Brotherhood.” Bovaird was superb at playing both keyboard and guitar. Terry’s facial expressions and gestures with his guitar were on point to complement Lawrence’s actions, whether sharing a laugh or raising the intensity of “Radical Superjam” (a sort of remix of “Strange Animal”) and “Guerilla Soldier.”
Don’t forget Todd Sucherman, who was voted the number one progressive rock drummer by readers of Modern Drummer magazine. “I wish I had one guy from [Styx] with me,” Lawrence joked before launching into “Khedive,” a track from Styx’s latest album, The Mission.
Usually played alone on the keyboard in concert, this live version was a very different arrangement. Sucherman used percussion mallets on the cymbals, propelled into an elegant give-and-take layering on this instrumental with Lawrence on the keys. Afterward, Sucherman transitioned into a complex drum solo, bringing the audience to its feet by the end. His drum work throughout Gowan track “Guerilla Soldier” was another standout moment.
The Windsor crowd celebrated more than seeing Gowan onstage, which was incredible enough. Brad Machry of Linus Entertainment, who represents the classic Gowan catalog of music, appeared at one point. “With over 80,000 sales and streaming equivalents, ‘A Criminal Mind’ is now officially a digital platinum single!” came his special announcement to cheering fans.
Gowan concerts, like at Caesars Windsor, have proved time and again to be indelible experiences. The keyboard stand is a simple yet intriguing device that Lawrence employed to play the keyboard while spinning it. The smoke stage effects occur in tandem with dynamic shifts on the lights, creating impressive silhouettes. He is adept at portraying the mood of his music through movement and his facial expressions. For example, a lip curl and subtle eyebrow-raising went far in portraying a sinister air during “A Criminal Mind.” Additionally, it’s a grand opportunity to see Lawrence playing the guitar, including a sparkly silver one.
The evening’s setlist was a crowd-pleaser with tracks across the Gowan catalog such as the uplifting “Awake the Giant,” “Dancing on my Own Ground,” and “Soul’s Road.” Other tracks included “When There’s Time for Love,” “Lost Brotherhood,” the delightful “Moonchild’s Psychedelic Holiday” tying in “Tomorrow Never Knows” (Beatles cover), and “All the Lovers in the World.” Even early Gowan appeared, via 1982’s “Keep Up the Fight.” It wouldn’t be a Gowan show without “(You’re a) Strange Animal” and “Moonlight Desires” at the encore.
Noteworthy is Lawrence’s selection of “Dedication,” using the newer piano-only arrangement. “You wouldn’t believe the notes I get. It was never a single,” he explained about the original release. “That makes it more meaningful because it’s never been commercialized … I love playing it.”
One other notable aspect about the Windsor concert is how Lawrence enjoyed entertaining everyone between songs with his comments. I mentioned a couple of instances above. Following edgy track “Lost Brotherhood,” he said, “We leave that dark reality and step into something of a different nature. And I don’t mean to undress.”
Before singing “All the Lovers in the World,” he said, “This is where things start to get sexy if you didn’t notice.”
After ending the song, he grinned and asked, “Did you feel the sexy? I felt it!”
Above all, it’s refreshing to see the high energy, dedication, and sheer joy that Lawrence and his fellow musicians exude from start to finish at a Gowan show. It’s a classy party that you just can’t miss. To see more photos from the Windsor concert, they are available here. You can still buy tickets for the February 2019 Gowan shows in Milton and St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. In the meantime, you can also see both Lawrence Gowan and Todd Sucherman when they resume their posts and blast off on the Styx tour again beginning on September 28.