DeYoung rocks Star Plaza
Former Styx frontman sounds good as ever
By Steve Metsch
It’s been 40 years since Styx released its “The Grand Illusion” album, but you couldn’t tell that by listening to Dennis DeYoung’s voice.
DeYoung, the former frontman for the popular rock band from Chicago, played the entire album and a slew of other Styx hits during his concert Dec. 16 at the Star Plaza Theatre. It was the next-to-last concert there.
DeYoung sounded great and had the energy of a man half his age. DeYoung, 70, sounded pretty much the same as the first time I saw Styx during the “Paradise Theater” tour in 1981.
This show, the 70th on the band’s current tour, began with a recording telling fans that the band would play the entire album first, leaving no room for chatting, with DeYoung promising he would in the second half of the show.
He did later, and the guy is funny. He told amusing stories about his doing his first marathon which, ahem, involved watching binge watching “The Kardashians” cable TV show, along with interesting stories about his days with Styx.
While he did mention the Panozzo brothers, Chuck and the late John, who “lived down the street” and started the band with him when they were teenagers in Chicago’s Roseland neighborhood, no mention was made of Tommy Shaw and James Young, who famously dumped DeYoung from Styx in 1999.
No matter. The strength of the material played by DeYoung’s impressive band, along with his dazzling vocals, had few pining for the old lineup.
As mentioned, they began with the title track of that album and played it in the order it was on vinyl. He cracked “time to turn the record over” after the A side was completed.
The band, with guitarists August Zadra and Jimmy Leahey, keyboardist John Blasucci, bassist Craig Carter and drummer Michael Morales, was superb. DeYoung’s wife Suzanne, whom he met in high school, provided some backing vocals.
“The Grand Illusion” album sounded fantastic, especially “Man in the Wilderness,” the title track and that crowd favorite, “Come Sail Away” which turned into a singalong at DeYoung’s urging. Leahey was great on the rollicking “Miss America.”
After the album’s eight songs were played, he joked that he could finally talk with the audience. He introduced “Lady” as the “song that started it all.” It was and is still a great song.
He even pointed out in the audience John “Records truly is my middle name” Landecker, the deejay who first played “Lady” on WLS, causing DeYoung and his wife to “dance around the kitchen” hearing it that night.
“Lorelei,” one of those Styx songs that doesn’t get the props it deserves, sounded fantastic and – as most of the songs – included a dazzling light show.
Zadra made me think “Tommy who” when belted out a fun take on “Too Much Time On My Hands.”
Unlike the current Styx rendition starring Shaw and Young, DeYoung embraced the 1983 song “Mr. Roboto,” even pulling out the mask worn on that tour, the one that some say was the start of the end for the original band.
“Suite Madame Blue” was a nice surprise with its still stinging commentary on America that fits as well 2017 as it did when released in 1975.
DeYoung’s shining moment on vocals was “Babe,” a love song written for his wife which again showed his voice has lost nothing.
Suzanne even got to chat up the audience, telling us that at breakfast he reads to her the comments posted on his Facebook page “while we wait for his prune juice to work.”
DeYoung, who said he is working on an album with Ides of March frontman Jim Peterik, thanked fans several times for their support through the years. He even gave them several choices in the concert.
He asked if they wanted an intermission. They did not.
He invited them to pick between “Desert Moon” and “Don’t Let It End.” The chose the former, one of his solo post-Styx songs.
The encore didn’t involve the band leaving the stage and returning. He instead suggested we all pretend they did just that. A hard-rocking “Renegade” and the lovely “The Best of Times” closed the show with a little “The End” by The Beatles played for good measure.
Checking in at just over two hours, it was a great night of music.
It was kind of bittersweet leaving the theater as many fans took photos of memorabilia, guitars signed by various artists, like Joe Walsh, in the lobby.
After 38 years, Star Plaza Theatre would close its doors forever the next day after a concert by the Oak Ridge Boys, a country band.
However, the last rock show there by an ageless local legend will be one not soon forgotten.