Styx – The Grand Illusion/Pieces of Eight Live

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Review by Brian McGowan

The newest member of Styx is Ricky (Babys/Bad English) Philips, and he’s been in the band for nine years, so this is hardly a new lineup. Lawrence Gowan replaced Dennis DeYoung back in 1999 and has subsequently become an integral part of the band, with many arguing that Gowan’s vocal power and stylistic daring have in fact helped re-energise the band in recent years.

Fans of Styx will well know that the band’s1977 release – their 7th album – ‘Grand Illusion’ provided the worldwide commercial breathrough they were seeking. A year later, follow up ‘Pieces Of Eight’ cemented that position. The earlier, fragile proggy sound had been thickened with hard rock guitars and powerful harmonies. The band’s musical palette would never again seem so lavish, so full of colour, light and shade.

It was therefore an outstanding idea to perform both albums live, back to back, giving them due respect as the band’s commercial, critical and artistic pinnacle.

The gig that took place in Memphis’s historic Orpheum Theatre in 2010 was recorded in high def by a dozen cameras.

It may seem an obvious thing to say, but the whole band – Tommy Shaw, James Young, Lawrence Gowan, Todd Sucherman and Ricky Philips – are in awesome form. In an era where much of rock’n’roll has devolved into a digitized, flatpacked, pro-tooled, auto-tuned consumer product, it is a genuine delight to see and hear a great rock band perform a perfectly chosen repertoire, full of emotion, imagery and sharp sonic arrangements.

The standouts then remain the standouts now. ‘Fooling Yourself’, ‘Come Sail Away’, ‘Blue Collar Man’ and ‘The Grand Illusion’ all sound musically and lyrically relevant today – skilfully blending romanticism and realism with an extraordinarily rich and intoxicating mix of styles.

Audience participation is minimal, it sings along at the right bits and keeps a respectful silence at the others – wow, an audience that wants to hear the music!

The DVD also includes a short (30 mins) but perfectly formed documentary describing just how the logistics of a Styx stageshow is managed. That may seem a dry subject. They make it interesting, but maybe it will appeal to techies more than anyone else.

The recording also comes in the form of a double disc set and it’s here that longtime producer, Terry Loizzo’s engineering and mixing expertise becomes a wonder to behold, giving some great music depth, atmosphere and texture.

Unarguably, an investment in either medium would be a wise one.

Rating 9/10

1 COMMENT

  1. […] Styx – The Grand Illusion/Pieces of Eight Live : The Midlands RocksMar 19, 2010 … Dan Tierney. Great blog post! Now I want to go see Styx again.I see they are playing in Niagra, Ontario on September 30, Oct 1 and Oct 2. […]

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