DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Styx - 'The Grand Illusion / Pieces Of Eight - Live' Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     June 01, 2012    
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A terrific representation of a still vital performing unit.

It’s taken a while for the CDs and DVD of this show to appear it taking over a year from performance to release. Fortunately the wait has been well worth it because this is a terrific representation of a still vital performing unit. It helps that they have plenty of great material to work and the two albums they play in their entirety here are arguably their high water mark in that respect. Having the screen projecting a film of a fan sorting through their albums, plucking out ‘The Grand Illusion’ and placing it on the turntable is a neat opening to the show.

I’ll get my criticisms out the way early so I can concentrate on the many positives. There are too many songs without proper endings, I despise the cacophony style conclusion to songs and I’m afraid Styx use it way too often. You’d think a band of this quality could devise something more meaningful to bring a song to a close thus replacing the fade out section used on album. On the DVD Lawrence Gowan can be seen playing his keyboard with his hands behind his back. Showmanship it may be but doing it once is interesting, more than that is boring.

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What is clear is that this band can still perform to the highest standard and in Tommy Shaw they have an absolute star (I’d love to see him at Firefest doing his solo material. I can dream, can’t I?) whose brilliance shines through on every track but most notably on ‘Foolin’ Yourself’, ‘Man in the Wilderness’, ‘Blue Collar Man’ and ‘Renegade’. His guitar playing is, as is James Young’s (JY) quite superb throughout. Drummer Todd Sucherman is sensational and dare I say under-rated, in that he plays like a demon with power and finesse in equal measure. Gowan is the perfect replacement for Dennis De Young in that he doesn’t miss a beat with the keyboards but also vocally can handle the De Young songs without coming across as if he is merely mimicking. Ricky Phillips does a fine job on bass and backing vocals; sharing bass duties with Chuck Panozzo who appears from time to time.

While Shaw’s vocals are spot on it has to be said that JY does struggle a bit, not least because the songs where he leads are rather demanding, but I think he gets away with it. The band nails the harmony vocals and preserves the classic Styx sound. The DVD also shows how consummate they are with presentation. The moves may be choreographed, but if they are it’s not at all obvious as the players swap places and move around the stage whilst never missing a cue.

The idea was to play these albums in order but it’s a slightly flat conclusion with ‘Aku-Aku’ and I think I’d have switched that with ‘Pieces of Eight’ which would have taken the show out on a high.

Gary Marshall

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