For those who follow the band Styx, they know that Dennis' solo performances
have been few and far between. Besides the symphonic shows of 2000 and
a few charity gigs, Dennis has done a handful of performances since
the debut of Desert Moon. I saw the first symphonic show in Chicago
(February, 2000), and it ranks up there with my all-time favorite concerts.
Believe it or not, I was on the fence about going to this new show -
I mean, I live near Boston, and it was on a Thursday night. But then
I said, "What the hell are you thinking? Hop in the car!"
And that's what I did ... I mean - it was free! If I passed this one
up I'd kick myself. It's not everyday Dennis plays, let alone on the
East Coast and within driving distance. Plus, with Styx playing
Foxwoods in Connecticut the next night it was going to be a Styx-filled
was psyched to hear Dennis in a small, intimate venue in what I hoped
was more of a rock setting. Honestly, I didn't know what to expect.
Was it going to be a Broadway tunes show? A quasi-Styx show? Read on
and find out ...
For those of you who have never been there, Rye Playland is literally
an amusement park type place. It's where the movie "Big" was
filmed. It has games of chance, a water park, etc. Not exactly a top
notch venue you say? Well, here's the scoop. They apparently put on
free weekly concerts. This year they seemed to have a decent lineup
- the week before, REO Speedwagon played here. The event was sponsored
by radio station 95.5 WPLJ. The stage was pretty small, and there were
about 10 rows of benches set up, and some bleachers. There was also
a "mall" area of grass that people could put a blanket down,
plop a chair down, etc.
I arrived pretty early to scope out a good seat. Again - I had no
idea what to expect, but I wanted to make sure I didn't miss anything.
I also wanted to be fairly close to take some good photographs for the
website. I arrived while the people hired to do the sound/lighting stuff
were still setting up. There was drums, a bass rig, two guitar amps,
two sets of keyboards (I assumed one for Dennis, one for another guy).
Pretty basic setup. On the front keyboard setup was a vintage Oberheim
OB-8. The equipment was apparently rented (more on that in a bit).
Dennis and the band arrived around 3 or 3:15 PM. There were two keyboards
set up for him: a piano thing and the aforementioned Oberheim OB-8.
The stage looked fairly cluttered. For awhile Dennis, played around
with the Obie, and it seemed to be misbehaving (he even played such
things as the "Too Much Time on my Hands" riffs). (see pics
for Dennis using the keyboard) He seemed clearly miffed. So they packed
it up, as well as the piano that was set up for Dennis. The cases were
not Dennis', hence my rented comment. Guess you get what you pay for
LOL Seriously, another keyboard was set up (looked like a Korg Trinity
or Triton, not sure) for Dennis to use later to replace the Obie.
During the soundcheck they did a few songs: the end of "Grand Illusion"
into "Rockin' The Paradise" to test the transition apparently,
a little of both "Lady" and "Babe", "Mr. Roboto",
"Not Dead Yet" (which wasn't played during the main set),
and a little bit of "Paradise" with Dawn Marie singing (again,
not done during the set at night).
After the soundcheck, the few folks that were hanging around went
to the side to get some autographs and such. That's not my thing, but
I went up, introduced myself, and to my surprise, Dennis remembered
me. He said to come back to the little reception area, and he and I
proceeded to have a very nice chat. It was just two guys talking, which
I have to say,
was very odd since we were essentially shooting the shit and it felt
like no big deal, but it was still very cool. You could tell the current
situation did bother him (as I'm sure it does Tommy, JY, et al.). Suzanne,
his wife, was there, and I also chatted with her for a little bit. She
looked great, and looked much better than on the Behind the Music. She
was also upset by said situation. She
snapped the picture of myself and Dennis that now appears on the "About
Now for the news: apparently, the DeYoungs have been getting
a lot of inquiries, and Dennis may go on tour with this band. You heard
it here first, so for all of you craving your Dennis fix, you may get
it coming to a town near you. This is not definite or set in
stone, but from the way Dennis & Suzanne were talking, it seemed
like more of a "when" then an "if".
Stay tuned to StyxCollector.com for any confirmed news.
8 PM came, and after some introductions of some local politicians and
some WPLJ folks, it was time to get down to business. Having seen Dennis
in 2000, I knew his voice hadn't deteriorated from not singing as often
to an audience, and after hearing the soundcheck, I really had no doubts
about Dennis being at his best. One thing that I think I should mention
is that the more theater-esque quality to Dennis' voice that was apparent
in '96 and '97 seems to have been lost. His voice seems more back to
a rock voice, and really made the show better than I hoped. Very uncharacteristic
of the whole show, especially one that has Dennis, was that it was extremely
loose. No staging ... everyone onstage looked like they were having
a blast, moving around, joking, etc. It was a very different feel from
any Styx show I've seen with Dennis or even the symphonic show. Dennis
was also doing his best Shecky Greene impersonation, cracking jokes
and telling stories throughout the night. But onto what you care about
... the music:
1. Grand Illusion (straight into ...)
One of my favorite tunes that Dennis sings. Losing a lot of the affectation
helped - welcome back, Dennis!
2. Rockin' The Paradise
While the current Styx tour does "GI", it was nice to hear
"Rockin'", which I haven't heard in the few times I've seen
the lineup (they do it occasionally and it's on StyxWorld). And
the transition worked well. Dennis was in good voice from the get-go.
As good a job as Gowan does on this tune (and it's one of the tunes
Gowan does of Dennis' that I think isn't bad) and has made it his own
live, he's not Dennis. You really do remember it's Dennis' tune after
hearing him sing it.
4. Desert Moon
This was the gimme solo tune. Done like the album version.
was the only standard/showtune type of song he did. The band (just a
trio of Don/Hank/Kyle) - especially Don - really stood out on this one.
6. Show Me The Way (A Capella)
I'll be honest ... I was never really a fan of SMTW. It's an OK song.
He did the song this way at the symphonic show I saw, and the fans who
knew it, dug this version. Also not being a huge fan of a capella, while
I appreciated the harmonies and difficulty, I wish it had been a full
band version. Just my $.02.
This is one of the songs that the new lineup of Styx has been doing
with JY singing it. Both renditions are good, so there's room in the
Styx camp for both!
8. Suite Madame Blue
I've always thought this was a great showcase for Dennis' voice. Didn't
time how long he held the "more" (pop in CITA and you'll know
what I'm talking about), but it was awhile. Another song that was nice
to hear since I hadn't heard it in the few times I've seen Styx over
the past few years.
9. Mr. Roboto
Hearing it live at the symphonic show rocked, but man ... this was the
real deal - vocoder (i.e. the synthesized "Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto"
voice)and all. Talk about spot on! Easily one of the highlights of the
night. A most welcome addition. And it's never been done live like this,
because on the Kilroy Was Here tour, it wasn't done totally "live".
10. Don't Let It End
Nice to hear and it sounded good, but you could tell a lot of the people
didn't know this one.
I got sick of this one since I heard it a lot between '91, '96, and
'97, but after a brief hiatus of not hearing it live (sans the symphonic
show, where Dennis played in piano - a nice change), it was good to
hear this one again in the way that you expected it to be played. And
whatever Rhodes sound Don was using, it was much better than the one
Dennis had been using for awhile (IMHO ... less "digital"
and DX-7 for those of you who know what I mean).
12. Light Up
Played with the intro ... for a die hard like myself, this was a great
rendition, and outshined when Styx did it a few years back, I think
mainly because Dennis' voice was more in rock form. In the middle, Dennis'
son Matthew came out with a Rasta wig (it was quasi-reggaeish). Funny
13. The Best Of Times/AD 1958
This was done like on the Return to the Paradise Theatre Tour, where
the two songs were bridged with the musical interlude.
14. Come Sail Away (the only encore song)
What can I say here? The crowd was into it, I was into it, Dennis was
into it - 'nuff said. This is the way "Come Sail Away" should
sound like ... too bad the Obie wasn't working. Would have been the
Well, it was a free concert. So you had people who didn't really know
who Dennis was, some die hard Styx fans like myself, and some people
who knew the hits. The people sitting around me knew the bigger hits,
but definitely didn't know some of the songs like "Light Up"
or "Don't Let It End" (Dennis made a comment about not playing
that one often, and how it should be, but the guy next to me said something
to the effect of "for good reason" ... whatever). Having seen
Styx a lot since '91, and especially over the past few years since '96,
"Come Sail Away" - moreso than nearly every other song except
"Renegade" - seems to have become the anthem. Just like "Renegade",
it seems to get the most people singing along. Tonight was no exception.
There's always something about that moment when everyone sings "carry
There were some funny moments - for example, one guy was dancing around
and pontificating during "Babe" and "The Best Of Times".
That was classic. There was one yahoo who kept yelling for awhile during
the performance "Oh mama" (i.e. the first line of "Renegade").
Whether he just didn't know that Tommy sang that and not Dennis, didn't
like Dennis, was drunk off his ass, etc. ... it was a bit annoying.
The crowd gave Dennis a great reception, and he seemed to appreciate
it. I think given the news I list above, this was a good testbed to
see if the formula worked or if it needed some tweaking.
Dennis DeYoung - vocals, keyboards (only the solo on "Come
Tom Djallo - guitar
Hank Horton - bass
Don Neele - keyboards
Kyle Woodry - drums
Dawn Marie - backing vocals
Except for the keyboard player, the band seemed to be the same as when
I saw Dennis in February, 2000. However, they were much tighter and
more on. Dennis even admitted when we were chatting that first show
in February was not the best of the bunch (he said the Beacon Theater
show in NYC was great), since they were still figuring things out. Makes
sense, as it was the first symphonic show. But anyway, I remember being
unimpressed by Kyle in 2000, but was impressed by him this night. I
think it speaks to Dennis' comment - it was a first time back in 2000.
Hank, who was also in the James Young Group, and has played live with
Dennis for awhile, was on, and also provided the high harmonies. Tom
is another known quantity, having played on all of Dennis' rock solo
projects. Sure, it's not the frontline of Tommy Shaw and James Young,
but I didn't really feel that you missed much. Sure, I missed some touches
like the 12-string on "Suite Madame Blue"? But it worked just
fine on 6-string. And what I liked was while he stayed true in most
parts, he also wasn't trying to 100% copy the original parts (that's
always key for me). Dawn sounded/looked great. Don was a great keyboard
player, and Dennis picked someone pretty versatile to handle the differing
styles of music.
If Dennis comes to a town near you, go see him. It's an entertaining
show, and if you're looking for a true Dennis fix, it will be the only
way to scratch that itch! And with the promise of other songs that were
hinted at during the soundcheck, it proves to be a varied and engaging
setlist that should keep both casual and die-hard fans happy. Between
this and seeing Styx the next night at Foxwoods, I got to hear pretty
much a whole set of what I wanted to hear over two shows.