November 1, 2019
Review and Photos by Greg Perry
Dennis DeYoung Takes Charlotte on a Magical Voyage
Dennis DeYoung and his very capable band sailed into Charlotte’s Knight Theater on Friday night and left the capacity crowd feeling thrilled and musically satisfied. The tour is being billed as the 40th Anniversary tour of the legendary “Grand Illusion” album and includes a complete performance in Set 1 of the show. Technically the album is now 42+ years old, but no one seemed to take issue with or notice this slight stretch of the dates. Everyone seemed very pleased to be afforded the opportunity to hear this great album performed in its entirety by the man whose voice helped drive it to sales in excess of 5 million units.
You could feel the excitement in the audience build as they filled in – whistling, cheering and shouting before the band ever appeared on stage. As the pre-show excitement reached its peak a bit after 8 PM, Dennis made his appearance joined by his extremely talented 6-piece band consisting of the incredible “August Zadra” on Guitar, lead and backing Vocals, “Jimmy Leahey” Lead Guitar and vocals, “John Blasucci” with the Keys, “Craig Carter” manning the Bass, “Michael Morales” laying down the beat on the Drums as well as Dennis’ bride of 49 years “Suzanne DeYoung” on backing vocals.
After a brief hello, the band jumped right into the title track of the legendary album, “The Grand Illusion” and from the first note of the vocals it sounded like we had been teleported through a time machine to a Styx concert in 1977 as the voice was perfect – he nailed it note for note. As the title track came to a close, they immediately rolled right into track two, Dennis took to the keyboard to perform the extended opening for “Fooling Yourself”. Following Dennis, “Jimmy” hit it note for note on the acoustic guitar and “August” sounded enough like “Tommy Shaw” on vocals and lead guitar that you hardly noticed. The program continued with a rousing performance of “Superstars” which highlighted an excellent electric guitar duel from “Jimmy” and “August” mid-track. Closing side one was the iconic classic rock radio anthem “Come Sail Away,” and honestly as the entire audience sang at the top of their lungs, I got chills hearing them and that voice, the voice, the only true voice of Styx delivering this classic track to perfection. As the chorus rained down from every voice in the building, the song drove to its conclusion as a thunderous and lengthy applause was given to a very appreciative Dennis and his band.
Once the crowd relented a bit, Dennis stepped to the mic and said, “Side Two”, after which they launched straight into a rocking performance of “Miss America” which was followed by a faithful version with “August” taking the lead of Shaw’s “Man in the Wilderness”. Set one of the show was concluded with a fantastic rocking version of “Castle Walls” highlighting DeYoung’s amazing work on the keyboard and ended appropriately with Dennis belting out a spirited vocal version of “The Grand Finale”. As the set ended, the crowd all came to their feet cheering loudly while showing their appreciation once again as the band left the stage for what would be a 20-minute break. As Dennis departed, he told the audience when they returned, it would be “Styx Greatest Hits” – to which the cheers went up once again.
After the break, the band reappeared on stage and DeYoung introduced and provided the vocals for the 1975 Styx hit “Lorelei”, this was followed by a rocking version of “Blue Collar Man” with “August Zadra” once again performing the lead vocal and incendiary guitar work. After some minor equipment issues, Dennis took to his keyboard once again and explained how Styx had been a very successful cover band in Chicago in the early 1970’s, but he knew in order to take the next step he needed to write some songs. He used Suzanne as the inspiration and came up with “Lady” which, upon release, did indeed provide Styx with its first hit record and started them on their climb to the top. It was a thrill to hear him perform this iconic track live once again aided by the city of Charlotte on backing vocals.
He did comment after the song how it’s a shame that he isn’t allowed in THE band he helped make famous – this was his only mention of his former band mates. It’s very ironic that the next track performed this night was the one that began the famous rift within the band to begin with, “Mr. Roboto”. The band delivered a faithful version of the track with DeYoung giving a nice vocal performance all while holding the Robot mask. Following “Too Much Time on My Hands,” DeYoung shared the story of the next track, the 1979 number 1 hit “Babe”. He told the audience how the song had never been intended for release and was actually written as an Anniversary gift for his wife Suzanne. He recorded it for her, and it was played during a celebration party at which record company executives, upon hearing it, insisted it be released. As they say in show business, the rest is history as it sold big and became the bands biggest hit record EVER. The audience was simply thrilled to hear him perform it to perfection, and as it came to a close, he acknowledged once again the special lady on stage to whom it is forever dedicated.
Following “Babe,” he performed his biggest solo hit from 1984’s “Desert Moon” which seemed to conclude the ballad section of set two. The show began to enter the home stretch as “Jimmy Leahey” gave a wonderful acoustic guitar performance of “Prelude 12” which powered right into the huge crowd favorite “Suite Madame Blue” featuring DeYoung’s great vocals as well as an outstanding performance from all of the band – highlighted by the incredible guitar skills of “Zadra” and “Leahey”. The crowd once again was on their feet dancing in the aisles. Not allowing them to catch their breath, the band went straight to the sing along “The Best of Times” to which the city of Charlotte did not disappoint providing plenty of vocal support and at its conclusion shared their appreciation once again with a huge standing ovation.
DeYoung then told the audience this is where we are supposed to leave the stage, you stomp and shout and we come back. He stated “Lets just stay and go right to the encore”, to which they enthusiastically jumped right into the huge hit from the “Pieces of Eight” album “Renegade” with “Zadra” once again providing the lead vocals. The show was closed appropriately enough by the band and all in attendance with an extended reprise of “Come Sail Away”. Once again, this classic featured DeYoung’s smooth powerful vocals, his extraordinary keyboard skills, and highlighted one last time by the incredible axe skills of guitarist “August Zadra” and “Jimmy Leahey”.
As “Superstars” played over the sound system, the band took its bows, shook a few hands and said its goodbyes by throwing souvenir picks and sticks to lucky fans in the first few rows.
Post show, the audience was all smiles as they exited knowing they had just witnessed a legendary artist giving his audience a great performance and that is all we can ever ask!! Long may Dennis DeYoung and The Music of Styx tour continue to delight audiences from coast to coast.