Well, first of all – the split between Dennis De Young and Styx must be addressed. He was a major part of the band in their “glory days” which simply cannot be dismissed, as much as the latter-day version of the group would like us to believe. Not that I was ever the biggest fan of crap like “Mr. Roboto,” but it is a little infuriating that the group were unable to put aside their differences for an event like this.
The event in question is something which is becoming very popular with classic rock bands. Instead of playing a set comprised of mostly older hits, interspersed with new (usually bathroom-break) tunes, they simply go out and play the full albums of what we all came to see in the first place. Rush were highly successful with this idea in 2010 with their tour incorporating the full Moving Pictures LP. The year before, I took my son to see Motley Crue play all of Dr. Feel Good – (plus other classics). It is a smart move on a band’s part – and without question, the audiences love it.
I’ll get my bitching out of the way quickly, and move on into the concert itself. But there is no denying that Dennis De Young should have been a part of this show. Styx’s The Grand Illusion and Pieces of Eight remain the group’s most respected albums. Yet how screwed-up is it when the very first song, which was the very first song on The Grand Illusion is De Young’s title track?
I know people accept nostalgia acts without all of the original members, and evidently only two of the original (or “classic”) members are present – these being Tommy Shaw and James “J.Y.“ Young. But in this case it just seems that for all of the money involved – and a DVD being made, that somehow the members could have found a way to include De Young.
Ok, having said all that – I did find a lot to enjoy in this DVD. I must admit that even though I actually owned both records back in the late seventies, I never saw them in concert. Not that they were that much of a “guilty pleasure” at the time, it’s just that as a broke high school kid I never felt strongly enough about them to actually do the necessary work to get to the concert(s).
I imagine they were quite good though, at least based on the evidence presented on this DVD. One of the more interesting aspects of watching a band do their full album is hearing them play what were once considered “filler” tracks. Sometimes these songs, which were never played on the radio, became fan favorites anyway. It’s kind of cool to hear the whole thing played song by song, from side one to side two as the LPs were originally released.
Not to take anything away from the new recruits – but Tommy Shaw is the one who all eyes are riveted on throughout the show. The group rock convincingly, and Lawrence Gowan’s voice and keyboards actually do a very good impression of Dennis De Young’s.
As I think is pretty obvious throughout the course of this review though, I think it was a major mistake for the group to have simply given up on De Young. Hell, something we never thought we would see in our lifetimes – the reunion of David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen is happening. I still think that them ditching Michael Anthony was ridiculously misguided though.
Ok, enough whining. This is a pretty damned good DVD. The performances are hard to deny. For one thing, James Young‘s “Miss America” comes across very, very well. So does Tommy Shaw’s “Renegade.”
This is a tight band, and the audience is also very obviously thrilled to hear these songs. So as a document of a fairly recent show, where they played both of their most widely respected albums – I really cannot complain.
These two albums, and the songs are classics from my teen years, and interested me as such. To repeat, this is a very tight band, and they have the tracks down cold. I am not going to dismiss my complaints about De Young not being a part of this, because they are valid – and if the members of the group ever read this review, it is slightly possible that they might even consider trying to mend the fences. Who knows? It happened with Roth & Eddie, although it does not seem like it will ever happen with Journey & Steve Perry.
So you get what you get. Some “oldies” bands go out on tour with no original members at all, and still find an audience. I honestly have to give Gowan credit for sounding so much like the man he replaced. I’m sorry for the bitch-fest about De Young, he certainly never was my favorite member of the band. But like it or not, he was responsible for so many of the classic songs on these records that it is hard not to miss him.
I will say that Styx have done an excellent job in recreating these two albums. They certainly chose the correct material. I don’t know of anyone my age who did not own The Grand Illusion in particular. And even though Pieces of Eight was a disappointment in comparison, it still had enough good moments to outweigh the mundane.
The bonus features on the DVD are pretty pathetic. Interviews with the Styx production manager do not even really seem mentioning, and that is the highlight. None of the “bonus” material is really worth bothering with.
It’s not like there is any sort of “Styx-Mania” going on anymore. But they might get people just slightly more excited about them as a band if they grew up and got over the disagreements of the past. In the end, I think Styx: The Grand Illusion; Pieces of Eight has its moments, and is actually a damned good performance overall.
The DVD is what it is. But if these guys could ever just put the 30-year-old feuds behind them, then I think they would be shocked at the response they would find from their fans.
The DVD is set for release January 31, 2012.