Fair rains out, Styx rocks out

If you weren”t lucky enough to have a front row seat to the Aug. 26 Styx concert at the Alaska State Fair, chances are you probably got a good look at the sea of umbrellas and still had a great time. The first soaker to hit Alaska since anyone could remember decided to pour in with the kickoff concert event of the fair.

By all accounts, it was a great show. There were people of all ages getting told to sit down by security. There was way too much fun to be had at this concert. Most people stayed warm by waving their arms, dancing and generally rocking out. It was amusing watching 50-year-old, balding gentlemen dancing and playing their air guitars like they thought they were 20 again. Then there was the younger crowd passing bodies across the soaking wet audience and discovering — it seemed for the first time — the allure of Styx.

The band gained great notoriety as one of the pioneers of ‘arena rock’ in the late “70s. They came to rock and they rocked hard.

The show lasted a full two hours and the music was as hard driving as the rain. There were times when the band turned up their amplifiers and you could feel the frenzy of the music in your bones. They started the show with three or four of their mega-hits like ‘The Grand Illusion,’ ‘Crystal Ball,’ ‘Come Sail Away,’ and ‘Lady.’ There was a long medley of songs from the 14 albums they have recorded. Styx”s 50-year-old front man, Tommy Shaw said they simply had too much material over the years to play it all in one show, so they ‘smushed them all together’ into the medley.

Shaw joined the band in 1976 and has come back to the band after a hiatus with Ted Nugent”s Damn Yankees a few years back. His clear singing voice and great guitar work is a cornerstone of the band”s music. The band also did a tribute to the veterans fighting the war in Iraq and Afghanistan with ‘These are the Times.’

Keyboard man Lawrence Gowen played a lively ragtime piano piece and then the band played ‘I Am The Walrus’ by the Beatles. The entire show highlighted the enormous talent of the group and its desire to rock its audience.

Gowen stood up on his special swiveling piano singing with the sharp clarity that embodies Styx and jumped off of it like he was a youngster.

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James Young, one of the original founders of the band, the oldest member, said Hendrix, Cream, Jethro Tull and Led Zeppelin were his influences.

Shaw, the consummate showman, was comfortable with the crowd and quite funny.
‘We asked the fair people how much time we had to play and they said as long as we want to,’ Shaw said ‘Well, we want to, so were gonna play all night,’

Styx played more hits like ‘Renegade,’ ‘Too Much Time On My Hands,’ and many others, but two of their best tunes. ‘Babe’ and ‘Suite Madame Blue,’ were sorely missed by hardcore fans.

As 9 p.m. approached, Styx left the stage and the raucous crowd cheered for more. Styx came out for one encore and threatened to play all night. The crowd loved it, but then, like all good things, it came to an end with an apology from Shaw. The front man said they had to catch a red eye flight to Los Angeles — a mistake on their part as they really wanted to stay in our great state.

Shaw told the Alaskan audience that they were ‘awesome’ with a capital ‘awe’ and the crowd obviously thought the same of Styx.