Pacific Amphitheater kicked off their summer concert series with a legendary band with a flare for theatrics. Styx invaded Costa Mesa on a quintessential Orange County summer night, and it’s safe to say, the progressive rock band owned the stage.
As the crowd rolled in, it was as if you were transported back in time with all the vintage band t-shirts floating around. What surprised me was the number of 20-something year-olds that were there and amped for the show.
With the Pac Amp llama at the top of the hill, overseeing the evening’s festivities, the crowd was ready for their sonic heroes.
It’s funny how as you get a little older, some things change, but then they don’t. As I sat in my seat chatting with a few concertgoers, we all got a kick out of watching two grown men arguing. OK, maybe they already had a drink or 10 too many in them. It was almost like a “Beavis and Butthead” episode as the two exchanged verbal barbs at each over which was the badder-ass band: Rush or Styx?! The jury is still out on that one. Luckily the two didn’t take themselves too seriously, and made for an ironic and comedic backdrop to the pre-show entertainment.
As for Styx, they formed in 1972 and remain with a few founding members. That is amazing in itself by today’s standards. Set to electrify the crowd were lead vocalist Tommy Shaw (guitar), co-lead vocalist Lawrence Gowan (keys), James “JY” Young (guitar), Chuck Panozzo (bass), Ricky Phillips (bass), and pounding the skins was Todd Sucherman.
As the sun was slowly dipping into the cool deep cerulean blue waters of the Pacific Ocean, the lights started to dim and the backdrop of the Styx logo behind Sucherman’s drumkit was ever present, like an all-seeing eye. The stage lit up like a Christmas tree and the band walked out to screams from the crowd.
The large LED lights gave the stage an epic feel and set the mood for the night.
Like many in the crowd, the band has members in their 60s and 70s, but you would never know it. Shaw and Gowan moved about with the greatest of ease while displaying a vocal prowess that most performers half their age only dream about. What shocked me wasn’t how familiar the older crowd was with their catalog of music; it was the 20-somethings who seemed to know everything about Styx. As I looked around, I saw the younger folks singing along in a very intense manner – like they were at a Metallica show. It really was something to see.
Styx played an 18-song set that just flew by. They opened with “To Those,” followed by “Blue Collar Man,” and segued into “The Grand Illusion.”
The entire show was a good mix of classic and new material, which again, not only did the target audience know, but the 20-something were into it.
The band did their thing, communing with the crowd, so-to-speak. Gallow twirled his keyboard like a top and danced for the crowd.
What stood out was when they took what we thought was a respite from the mayhem, but instead Gowan went into “Lady,” which drew an enormous response from the crowd.
Shaw was masterful on guitar, Gowan was amazing on keys, Young, Panozzo, and Phillips simply amazed, and Sucherman proved why he is considered one of the best drummers in the music biz.
In between sets, Gowan and Shaw took to the mic to introduce the band to the crowd, and everyone got a kick out of how the duo introduced each band member, with a little background.
Then, they went back into it… the catalog was on full display, “Light Up,” “Crash of the Crown,” “Lorelei,” “Miss America,” “Crystal Ball,” “Rockin’ the Paradise,” “Our Wonderful Lives,” and a few others entertained before the house erupted to the closer, “Come Sail Away!”
By this time, the target audience, the 20 and 30-something year-old and the two Styx-Rush fans had become one as everyone chimed in and sang every word to that larger-than-life song.
As in true showman style, the guys waited a moment to take in the appreciation from the Pac Amp crowd.
Styx emerged again and gave their fans more of what they wanted: the hits! They closed with “Mr. Roboto.”
Then they rocked Pac Amp with “Renegade.” What a night for music! It was a little bit of everything for everyone. – even the Rush guy was impressed.