Styx started out in Illinois way back in 1972 as a progressive band taking their cues from British groups like Emerson, Lake & Palmer and the Moody Blues. They had a loyal Midwestern following, but it took the 1974 hit “Lady” to break the band on radio, and when Tommy Shaw joined the band in 1975, things took off in a big way. They became more pop and radio oriented, although they tried to keep some of their progressive roots.
With the release of the concept album Paradise Theater in 1981, the band solidified their status as a major arena band, and the massive hit “Too Much Time On My Hands” was an ‘80s radio staple. In the late ‘80s Styx went into hiatus, with the individual members mostly working on solo projects during that time.
In 1990 the band got together without Shaw, and with the Jersey shore’s Glen Burtnik joining in. The reunion album, Edge Of The Century, featured the hit single “Show Me the Way,” which reached number three on the charts. Styx toured the following year, and was one of the most successful of the year, showing that the band still had a large fan base. Since then, Styx has continued to tour and record with various lineups. Currently, Tommy Shaw is back in the fold but co-founder Dennis DeYoung has been touring on his own.
They have joined forces this summer with the world’s quintessential British progressive rock band, Yes, for a 22-city tour that promises to bring back the ‘70s for people who were rock fans at the time, as well as expose their live show to younger fans who know the groups only through classic rock radio and greatest hits collections. It also gives Styx a chance to explore their more progressive roots, and cement a kinship they’ve long felt with their British counterparts.
“About 10 years ago when Styx was playing in New York, Chris Squire [the Yes bass player] was there and he said he really enjoyed the Styx show,” recalls Styx keyboardist Lawrence Gowan about the upcoming trek. “And that it would be great if we toured together. So then years later it comes through. Funny enough, I was a huge fan of the band. I remember buying Close To The Edge, and it altering my world and what it was possible for a rock band to do. Styx is in a very unique place really. When I first heard their records in the ‘70s, I took note of the fact that they were the only progressive rock band not from the U.K. that had some true measure of success. They had taken British influences and were doing very accessible versions of progressive rock songs. This tour with Yes is the first time we get to entirely shine the spotlight on that aspect of the band.”
Lawrence was actually a successful solo artist in Canada prior to joining Styx, and got to work with Yes vocalist Jon Anderson at that time. “One of my biggest songs was with Jon, so I got a little bit inside to get a vision of what the world of Yes was,” he recalls. “He actually came to Mexico to do a video for that. Yes has gone through a lot of members changes, as has Styx, but the chance to tour with the band is a great moment for us really as a band, because we love the progressive rock side of Styx, so to tour along with Yes is fantastic.”
Besides the tour, Styx is putting the finishing touches on Regeneration, Volume 2, which follow on the heels of 2010’s Volume 1, which featured six re-recorded Styx classics and one new track. Volume 2 also will include a couple new versions of Tommy Shaw’s songs from his ‘90s group Damn Yankees.
With so many radio hits, and a progressive background they plan to showcase on this tour as well as co-headlining situation that will limit the length of their set, it must be hard to pick what will be included and what will be left off. “Exactly. That’s one of the toughest questions to answer,” laughs Lawrence. “Because when we run any song through the show, that’s my favorite one to play! At the end of the show we play ‘Renegade,’ and no matter where we are in the world, the audience suddenly becomes on when we reach that song every night.”
Yes brings to the tour classic line-up members Chris Squire, Steve Howe and Alan White, along with long-time member Geoff Downes and new vocalist Benoît David. The group was one of the true pioneers in creating progressive rock, starting with their massive hit “Roundabout,” and they have never failed to deliver tight, musicality complex and visually stimulating performances. A new album, Fly From Here, will be released in conjunction with the tour, and is their first release in over 10 years.
Lawrence is not only looking forward to sharing the stage with such a legendary pioneering band as Yes, but to the venues they will be performing in as well. “Playing at two of the Super Bowls in the last 10 years, a tour of Japan, the first time we played Wembley with Deep Purple in 2007,” he cites as particularly memorable experiences. “We’re going back to play Wembley again with Journey and Foreigner. And I’ll tell you this, the PNC in Holmdel is one of my favorite memories. As a summer amphitheater it’s one of my all-time great venues. The sound is great, and the audience is always tremendously rousing and engaged. It’s great.”
Styx and Yes will be appearing at the Susquehenna Bank Center on July 4, PNC Bank Arts Center on July 5, Nikon At Jones Beach Theater on July 11 and Bethel Woods Center on July 12. More info at styxworld.com.