Styx; Making It Look Easy …

Remember the days when a Rock n Roll show was a Rock n Roll show?

In Montreal, ‘back in the day’, the anticipation could be felt hours before the show in Atwater Park. A green-space dotted with empty beer bottles, tossed – away ‘clips’ of joints and concert goers in various stages of sobriety.The only thing ‘straight’? The white line dividing East and West bound traffic on Atwater street itself …

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The festivities would easily carry over to The Montreal Forum once the doors of the fabled hockey shrine opened and invited people in. The atmosphere inside – a gathering of people wanting to have a good time. Frisbees, Beach Balls and a cloud of smoke shadowed the crowd on the floor while the folks in their seats – enjoyed  the entire scene with a grain of salt ( or a line of coke).

It was all about anticipation. Awaiting the band to come on. It was magical. No previews via Youtube of what the group looked like or sounded like the night before in ( insert name here),U.S.A. No Facebook pages with status updates from Jimmy Page or Humble Pie. No tweets from Tiny Tim. No nothing. That is what made a concert so exciting. ‘Live music’ from ‘live musicians’. The pinnacle of the music world performing the pinnacle of songs and the only place to witness it was live …

Last night, at The Olympia on Ste Catherine St. East – that anticipation was felt inside the venue. An excitement loomed overhead like the fog of marijuana smoke once did at the storied Forum.

There were two reasons for this. Most important,  Styx was ‘in the house’. Montreal audiences have a love affair with the band dating back to the days of ‘Sweet Madame Blue’. That song became a huge hit in Montreal before anywhere else in the world. That – combined with Montreal’s affection for prog-Rock bands such as Genesis, Yes and Marillion, gave the audience a ‘buzz’.

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The other principle reason for everyone getting their ‘undies in a bunch’ – is the city’s and the Province’s love affair with Lawrence Gowan. Starting with his appearances at Le Moustache (a club across the street from The Forum) and ending with his monstrous hits; ‘Strange Animal‘ and ‘Criminal Mind’ – Larry, Lawrence or Gowan is a household name in Montreal. Two acts – one heart. One love affair. Placing  Styx and him together? A combination worthy of anticipation. Peanut Butter and Jam. The ‘munchies’ for a crowd ‘stoned’ in nostalgia.

The excitement evolved into bliss with Gowan’s best Dennis DeYoung impersonation on the evening’s second song; Grand Illusion. The opening keyboards as obvious as Liberace’s penchant for all things non-female. The audience was hooked. Receiving what they came for and enjoying everything that came after.

“Fooling Yourself’ was no joke. Another tune from The Grand Illusion disc delivered with almost the same uniqueness of the studio version. Following a brief introduction of original guitarist – turned bassist; Chuck Panozzo, Gowan sent shivers down the spines of everyone with the opening words to ‘Lady’. The group’s hit from 1975. Many in attendance realizing it was that song which gave the opportunity for a slow dance back in high school. A song which has not only stood the test of time, a song  relevant more than ever in an era of disrespect towards …um …everyone.

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‘Lights Out’ came next followed by ‘In the Wilderness‘, the latter also from The Grand Illusion. An album which the band has played in it’s entirety ( along with Pieces of Eight) on recent tours. ‘In the Wilderness’ should have stayed ‘In the Wilderness’. Following more known songs – ‘Wilderness’ set the tone back except for the die hard Styx fans. A nonsensical choice that every cover band can do in their sleep. Inappropriate unless the Grand Illusion album was played out fully (which it was not).

‘Sweet Madame Blue’ and ‘Crystal Ball’ continued the party with the entire audience singing along  to a pair of songs which (arguably) placed Styx on the Rock n Roll map. ‘Miss America’ returned the group to ‘Wilderness’ levels once more – somehow losing whatever melody it had on vinyl to outright distorted guitars in concert.

Gowan to the rescue …!

‘Criminal Mind’ elevated the band from it’s corny prison routine and introduced Gowan to the crowd as the solo artist they once knew. A haunting song which made it’s way around the room like a ghostly presence. A homecoming of sorts for the man who loved Montreal so much – he recorded an album in French.

‘Stephanie’, Gowan’s hit ‘en Francais’ – followed a respectful jaunt to the time when  Styx started to lose fans. ‘Too Much Time on Your Hands’ is great in concert and annoying anytime else. A crowd-  pleaser unless the crowd happens to contain prisoners with a penchant for Primus. A fluffy piece of music meant for …?

Once more – Gowan to the rescue…

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The funnest part of the evening had Gowan (alone) do a medley. A ‘montage’of great songs from the past starting with his own hit; Moonlight Desires‘. Roughly thirty seconds of the subsequent songs carried out – much to the joy of the crowd. ‘Sweet Dreams’ by The Eurythmics, ‘Changes’ by Bowie, ‘Tiny Dancer‘ by Elton John and’You Can’t Alway Get What You Want’ by the Rolling Stones. Each choice gaining sing-a-long status from the crowd with Gowan’s urging. The Stones’ ballad receiving the loudest and longest rendition. ‘Fat Bottom Girls‘ (Queen) and ‘Another Brick in the Wall ( Pink Floyd) led Gowan into the night’s biggest moment …

Come Sail Away.

The eruption, the sing-a-long, the joyous reaction and the memories- all in your face! An anthem delivered. A typical Styx ballad -turned rocker. The ORIGINAL Styx crowd pleaser done with so much heart – so much 70’s flavor – it was perfect as the final song of the show. Leaving the audience begging for an encore. ‘Renegade’ kept the fires burning long enough, hard enough for Styx to not be lumped in to the ‘nostalgia act’ category.

Oldie acts do not have the energy Styx generated last night.

Over- the – hill acts do not put on a Rock n Roll show …!

Highlight of the Night; No Mr. Roboto!

Lowlight; No Babe?

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