STYX – The Grand Illusion / Pieces of Eight Live (2011 Eagle Records)
Although legacy bands like Styx may not write and record new music as often as they used to, there have been a couple interesting effects from this. Legendary discographies have been mined by a handful of classic bands, playing rare tracks live that haven’t been played on a stage in decades, if ever. Sometimes, bands play full albums. A few even play two! Styx chose The Grand Illusion and Pieces of Eight for live resurrection.
Dipping back to 1977 and 1978, Styx picked two of their best records to perform. Kind of the “sweet spot” between Tommy Shaw joining the band on Crystal Ball, and the drama with Dennis DeYoung on Cornerstone. There are numerous of songs they never played live with Lawrence Gowan on vocals before, if at all! They had to re-learn their own songs to put on this concert. You can’t accuse them of taking the easy way out!
Tommy even tells you where the side breaks come!
With Todd Sucherman on drums, the songs are naturally heavier here. Gowan’s voice lends a different sound to them too. Bassist Ricky Phillips is rock solid as always, but original bassist Chuck Panozzo still comes out to play bass on the odd track live. His rumble on “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)” is nice and prominent in the mix.
The songs have other notable differences, like more guitar solos. James Young does Dennis’ old spoken word part on “Superstars”. Some might wonder, “Why listen to this, when you can play the original albums with the original members any time you want?” It would be unwise to compare the talents of Gowan and Dennis, but why can’t you just be a fan of both? Some people want to hear Gowan singing “Come Sail Away”, and especially “Castle Walls” which was only played once before in 1978 and a handful of times in 1997. There are many such songs on this recording. “I’m OK” (which Gowan sings) was dropped after 1979, until this tour. “Lords of the Rings” (James Young on vocals) was only played once in 1978.
There are stories, and songs for the diehards. This isn’t a package for someone looking for greatest hits. It’s also not the same as listening to an old album. This is for the Styx fan who loves the past and present equally.