Concert Review: Styx Does Things Their Way

One of the most forgotten and underrated bands on the planet is indeed still very much alive and if their ardent fan base has anything to say Styx is not going anywhere anytime soon.

Playing in front of a capacity crowd at the Northwest Art and Air Festival Saturday night in Albany, OR Styx powered through a 13-song set that included most of their hits and if crowd reaction is any indicator (at least half were first timers to see Styx) their presence in the northwest is solid. Yes, the fee to get in was based on donation only and present-day Styx primarily headlines small venues and casinos, but their music is so solid and, despite playing mostly 30-year old-plus songs, they are nowhere near extraneous.

Set opener “Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)” showed off why singer/guitarist Tommy Shaw boasts one of the purest voices in rock today. He sounds the same as he did decades ago. The moving “Man in the Wilderness” and “Crystal Ball” not only reflect America’s mood today but also show Shaw’s versatility on guitar.

Styx certainly has seen its share of complications over the course of its 40 year history. Shaw, who left in the mid-80s, and guitarist James “J.Y.” Young are who remain of what would be considered the “classic” line-up. Shaw returned in 1995. Original singer Dennis DeYoung left shortly after but Styx have stayed with singer/keyboardist Lawrence Gowen since 1999 and who sounds remarkably like DeYoung – “Come Sail Away” is as beautiful as ever.

The current line-up with bassist Ricky Phillips (joined in 2003) and drummer Todd Sucherman (1995) has been consistent for nearly a decade and also been on tour for that long. Ever the working band, Styx travels essentially year-round often playing with other classic rock stalwarts like REO Speedwagon, Yes and Foreigner. Original bassist Chuck Panozzo, who has health issues, makes occasional appearances, and if you can catch a show when he plays a few songs it is touching to watch him, Shaw and Young play together.

Not all can be blamed on today’s music industry for Styx’s departure from the mainstream. Concerts consist primarily of the classics and they have not released an album since 2005 which consisted of covers. Their last studio album of original material was Cyclorama in 2003. Young recently indicated the band is interested in making a new album but conceded that it’s difficult to get exposure with a new singer. He has a point – Journey can attest to this.

It’s not classic Styx in the sense of what purists demand but what you see is what you get – Styx has toured more in the last decade than in all previous years combined. “Fooling Yourself (Angry Young Man) is a harmonious blend of keyboards, guitars and drums and just try to stay still during “Too Much Time on My Hands.” “Lorelei” is just as rocking as it was in 1975.

Styx may not be headlining arenas and large amphitheaters the way they did in the 70s and 80s but their future looks quite bright to me.

Styx Albany Setlist:

  1. Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)
  2. The Grand Illusion
  3. Too Much Time on My Hands
  4. Lady
  5. Lorelei
  6. Man in the Wilderness
  7. I’m OK
  8. Crystal Ball
  9. Fooling Yourself (Angry Young Man)
  10. Miss America
  11. Come Sail Away
  12. Rockin’ the Paradise
  13. Renegade

Written By: AndrewT

Concert Review: Motley Crue and Kiss: Nothin’ But a Good time

Motley Crue could very well be the 8th wonder of the world.

Four very broken individuals, who have battled drug and alcohol addictions, survived overdoses (in one case an actual near-death experience), and partied hard enough for several lifetimes are not only still alive but managing to carry-on and play their brand of hard rock music so-well defined in the 80s.

I never saw an 80’s Crue concert therefore I cannot attest to whether or not singer Vince Neil, drummer Tommy Lee, bassist Nikki Sixx and guitarist Mick Mars should be labeled as “you should have seen them back in the day.” Their antics are legendary (as re-told in Motley Crue: The Dirt) and it’s hard to imagine anything listenable coming from four extremely intoxicated and high individuals. However, based on Sunday night’s show at Sleep Country Amphitheater in Ridgefield, WA the music now takes over where the party finally stopped.

Sure the band still very much admires the ladies (scantily clad dancers and acrobats), really pushes it loud (like watching a fireworks show at times) and strives for over the top (Lee’s 360 drum set) their music is not only solid but well-played and downright fun.

Neil looking nowhere near his 51 years has lost little if any of his range. All through-out the 14-song (including drum and guitar solos) nearly 80 minute set Neil hit all the usual high notes and breezed through hits like “Wild Side,” “Same ‘Ole Situation (S.O.S),” and “Kickstart my Heart.” Sixx was solid on bass and Mars, 51, who has battled ankolosing spondylitis (a form of arthritis) since the age of 17, has lost no dexterity in his fingers. If he had not publicly disclosed his condition so many years ago, no one would be the wiser. He was indeed master of the fret board.

Lee, who was unfortunately allowed to talk since he seems to know only words that start with the letter “F” and perhaps turned off many parents who brought their children to the show (likely for Kiss), was also one of the stars. In what can only be described as a vertical roller coaster loop, Lee, securely strapped in his seat, performed a dazzling if not jaw-dropping drum solo that had him upside down, with his drum kit as the coaster car, and Lee still drumming.

Despite their notoriously debaucherous reputation, Motley Crue also has a softer, gentler side with “Home Sweet Home” and set-opener “Saints of Los Angeles,” while not a ballad, is one of their best crafted and melodious songs. Can’t forget “Dr. Feelgood” which pounds in one of the all-time best rock intros.  As the opening act to Kiss, Crue’s set list seemed abbreviated but the band covered all the high notes and even performed a new song.

Headliners Kiss pretty much provided everything Kiss is known for and delivered the goods to the Army faithful. The band sounded tight and together and were of course the loud spectacle Kiss fans love. Lots of fire and fireworks, rising platforms, a flying Gene Simmons rising above the main stage and playing atop the stage lights, and Paul Stanley taking a zip-line of sorts over the crowd to a second stage near the back of the amphitheater.

Neither band gives rock operas, concept albums or overly complex time changing riffs, but for Motley Crue and Kiss that’s not really the point. It’s really all about nothing but a good time.

Motley Crue Portland Setlist:

1. Saints of Los Angeles

2. Wild Side

3. Shout at the Devil

4. Same Ol’ Situation (S.O.S.)

5. Sex (new)

6. Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)

7.  Home Sweet Home

8.  Drum Solo

9.  Guitar Solo

10.  Live Wire

11.  Primal Scream

12.  Dr. Feelgood

13.  Girls, Girls, Girls

14. Kickstart My Heart

Kiss Portland Setlist:

1. Detroit Rock City

2. Shout It Out Loud

3. I Love It Loud

4. Firehouse

5.  Hell or Hallelujah (new)

6.  War Machine

7.  Shock Me

8. Guitar, Drum and Bass Solos

9. God of Thunder

10. Love Gun

11. Lick It Up

12. Black Diamond

13. Strutter

14. Rock and Roll All Nite

Written By: AndrewT

Concert Review: All You Need is Duran Duran

Whatever wine Nick Rhodes is drinking these days it has probably not aged as well as the four gents from Britain known as Duran Duran.

Duran Duran keyboardist Nick Rhodes takes a picture as bassist John Taylor and guitarist Dom Brown play on

These mega pop stars from the 80s who used to sell out stadiums are now reduced to more intimate venues like Wednesday’s show at The Mountain Winery in Saratoga, CA. That certainly doesn’t mean the Fab 4 don’t perform like the olden days. In fact, one could argue that Duran Duran is better than ever and if not for the 15-minute of fame music cycle that has infected today’s recording industry, Duran Duran should be as germane as ever.

Yes, gone are the screaming 15 and 16-year-old girls who used to push their way through fencing and fight their way to the stage. Today’s fan base consists, of course, of those same girls albeit far fewer and a bit older much like the men they would have given anything to marry 30 years ago. What’s difficult to ascertain is why a band that consists of four of five original members (the fifth Andy was not always the most popular anyway, ask any Duranie) is unable to return to the large sellout crowds it once commanded. (Journey still tours arenas and large shacks with a different singer!) Too many helicopter parents afraid to leave their little ones for just an evening, I guess.

To them I can only say you missed out.

Simon Le Bon, John Taylor, Roger Taylor and the aforementioned Rhodes put together an entertaining 18-song set that featured all the old hits and a number from their latest album All You Need is Now. Wednesday’s show (the first of two in Saratoga) was the start of the final leg of their tour which began last year and has taken the band all over the world.

Singer Simon LeBon

Though age and perhaps a long flight from Britain which Le Bon and guitarist Dom Brown (Andy’s replacement) apparently took the day of the show may have sucked some energy out of Le Bon (his “The Reflex” karate kick and center stage run and leap during “Hungry Like the Wolf” were suspiciously absent) his voice has never, yes never, sounded better. In a recent interview John Taylor said the band has recognized this which apparently is a result of Le Bon taking certain precautions after his bought with vocal cord paralysis last year.

Maturity is always a good thing and Duran Duran has indeed matured. At times, the band, along with a couple of additional musicians, played so tight and pristine it sounded as if someone simply popped in a CD. What separates Duran Duran from today’s pop trash is how timeless the songs that made them huge are and how well their current offering stands up against them. Red Carpet Massacre  aside (2007’s not so well received album despite having a couple of gems) 2004’s Astronaut (the “reunion” album) and All You Need is Now are strong efforts with the latter a purposeful reflection of 1980s Duran Duran.

Five songs from the new album (six if you count the 46 second “A Diamond in the Mind”) made the set list including the emotive “Before the Rain,” the title track, “Being Followed,” the melodic “Girl Panic!” and the enigmatic “The Man Who Stole a Leopard.” Of course the usual favorites were already well-rehearsed by the sold out crowd of 2,200 – “Wild Boys,” “Planet Earth,” “Rio,” the crowd pleasing “Save a Prayer” and one of their best and the best Bond theme song “A View to a Kill.”

Rhodes, who along with Le Bon, stuck with Duran Duran during the departure of the Taylor’s (no relation) in the 1980s, is always enjoyable to watch behind his stockade of keyboards. The variety of sounds and beats he creates is probably the driving force of the band. And, while Roger Taylor (drums) and John Taylor (bass) may never be seen in the higher  echelon of their perspective career paths both are much more than a 1-2 puncher and three note bassist seen in much of today’s popular music. Neither have really been given the platform to shine but perhaps that’s what makes them happy – being in a band.

Duran Duran may no longer be relevant to the mainstream but for their fans the mainstream has never really been relevant to them. It’s always about the music and it will always be about Duran Duran.

Duran Duran Mountain Winery Setlist:

A Diamond in the Mind
Before the Rain
Planet Earth
A View to a Kill
All You Need is Now
Being Followed/Blame the Machines*
The Reflex
Come Undone
Is There Something I Should Know/Safe*
Girl Panic!/Union of the Snake*
The Man Who Stole a Leopard/Girl Panic!*
White Lines/Notorious*
Ordinary World/Careless Memories*
Hungry Like the Wolf/Ordinary World*
Reach Up for the Sunrise/Hungry Like the Wolf*
Wild Boys/Reach Up for the Sunrise*
Save a Prayer/Wild Boys*
Rio/Save a Prayer*
Girls on Film*

* denotes set list change on night two

Written By: AndrewT