In the space of six summery days, classic prog rock-loving Western New Yorkers had the opportunity to see the two factions of the band Styx perform.
On Aug. 19, Styx played Artpark in Lewiston; on Aug. 24, former Styx singer Dennis DeYoung played Gratwick Riverside Park.
After an on-again, off-again relationship that ultimately ended with an acrimonious parting because of creative differences, founding member and vocalist Dennis DeYoung departed. DeYoung, the band’s lead songwriter, is legally allowed to perform as “Dennis DeYoung and The Music of Styx.”
DeYoung tours with a band of younger musicians and his wife, Suzanne, on backup vocals. His former bandmates – Tommy Shaw (who took over lead vocals after the ’96 final split with DeYoung) and James Young – have been performing Styx material with longtime fellow band mates Lawrence Gowan, Todd Sucherman and Ricky Phillips.
The look and feel of the two concerts varied greatly. Styx hit the Artpark stage with a production that included smoke, video and rock star attire. DeYoung played before a modest backdrop without bells, whistles or spangles. His greatest theatrical gesture was the showing off of a vintage Roboto mask during his classic “Mr. Roboto.” This song, not performed by Styx at the earlier show, is credited to DeYoung and is, quite simply, at the core of the creative rift.
Set lists of both shows overlapped tremendously: nine songs were shared by both acts. Incredibly, both Styx and DeYoung opened with “The Grand Illusion.” Both used “Renegade” as one of a pair of encore tunes. Others are rock classics – “Lady,” “Come Sail Away” (DeYoung’s other closer), and “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)” – all on their must-play list.
Another difference between the shows was the sense of proximity and demeanor. Whereas Styx created an aura of rather aloof rock superstardom, DeYoung went out of his way to appear nearly ego-free. Styx, who referred to Artpark fans as “people of New York State,” were a far cry from DeYoung’s charming inter-song banter, toothy smiles and waves to seemingly anyone who waved first.
Here is the full list of Styx songs performed by both Styx and DeYoung in the two recent area concerts:
“The Grand Illusion”
“Too Much Time on My hands”
“Fooling Yourself” (The Angry Young Man”
“Suite Madam Blue”
“Blue Collar man (Long Nights)”
“Come Sail Away”
“Rockin’ the Paradise”