Styx Puts on a Great Show

I started off 2012 with a Styx concert at Billy Bob’s Texas with my friend Lee. I don’t often go to concerts anymore. I’ve probably been to 5 concerts in the last couple of decades compared to seeing that many in a single season when I was younger. When I got them email from the venue that tickets were going on sale I wanted to go. I immediately asked my wife to go. She laughed and told me to go have fun. She went with me the last time I saw Styx. She’s more in to Rick Springfield and Nickelback. I checked with a couple other buddies who either didn’t know Styx (younglings) or just not that interested. I knew Lee would be up for it and he was.Billy Bob’s is a Honky Tonk. That means that it is a chimera bar/pool/dance hall. Billy Bob’s is really big too. I features several bars, bull riding arena, bar-b-q patio, and multiple stages including the main stage. The main stage is typically set up with long tables and folding chairs. You have 18 people to a table, assigned seating. The tables go right up to the stage with barely space for someone to walk. The tables go away from the stage off into the distance. Around the table seating area is a raised railing separating it from the rest of the honky tonk.The show started at 10:30 PM with an introduction by Bo Roberts, a local DJ from KZPS who’s has been with the station for as long as I can remember. The band took the stage playing Blue Collar Man. For the next ninety minutes they walked through their hits. Dennis DeYoung’s absence was barely felt. Lawrence Gowan sounds like he’s alway’s been with the band. James Young and Tommy Shaw both put on a great show. These guys are straddling 60 years old and still touring. Someone told me that they have toured more in the last 10 years then they had in the entire history of the band before that. Styx had their first hit in 1975. The bassist and drummer have been with the band for the last decade but I did not know them. At one point Chuck Panozzo came out on stage to play bass. Apparently he still tours with the band on a part-time basis. Tommy Shaw said that he enjoyed this venue and they like to come back every year.

The venues is fun. You can sit in your chair or stand next to your chair. Waitresses are working the tables selling $5.50 beers. You can buy the same beer for $4 outside the pit are. That pit is flat. The stage is raised about five foot from the floor. This creates a very intimate environment but I can imagine the view from the back is not that great. The sound system is fine. We are not talking Yo-Yo Ma on cello. This is good old fashioned album rock. It is played loud. At one point the speakers on stage right completely cut out. The band played on. The speakers came back a few songs later. That’s not so say that you could not hear the music. The vocals were clear.

Cameras were everywhere. I can remember as a kid that when you went to a concert you could not bring a camera or any kind of recording device. Taking a picture would be grounds for banishment. In 2001 I tried to bring a camera into a concert but was turned away because the camera looked “professional” — by that I mean it was an SLR with a detachable lens. I’m not sure it is unique to this venue but they seem to have given up on the whole “no cameras” idea. I guess they figured out that it is just another form of free publicity. Cameras were everywhere. Most everyone had their iPhone naturally. That is all that I brought. I took a couple dozen picts as did Lee (attached to this posting). I’m rather please with some of the pictures especially when you consider they were taken with a phone. Some people had pocket cameras while a few others had full on digital SLRs with zoom equipment that rivaled the official photographer on stage. He had a Canon 5D, by the way. I recorded a couple of clips of video. I’m not sure what I plan to do with it. I’m pretty sure that I cannot upload it to YouTube.

Tommy Shaw changes guitars in some times several times in the same song. He may start off with a 12-string classical guitar and then swap a-la-roadie to a Fender 6 string to finish the same song. For the song Madame Blue he made a point to introduce his guitar as if it were another member of the band. This 1960’s era 12-string electric Fender guitar was “all made in America and not imported from across the Pacific, Atlantic, or Gulf of Mexico”.

The band played for almost two hours including a small couple minute break before a finale. The stage setup was simple. It was a large raised drum kit with Styx logo behind. The large drums looked like Medieval beer kegs on their sides. I’m not sure if that was intentional. Lawrence Gowan’s keyboard was on a raised rotating platform that he would liberally spin while playing. Everything was fabricated from brushed aluminum to give it a very industrial and spartan look.

Hanging off each microphone stand and off most of their guitars were guitar picks with the band’s logo. They would strum a few notes with it and then pitch it into the audience. At first it was hard to see what they were doing but eventually the audience caught on and clamored for them as they hit the tables and foor.

The concert ended with a simple thank-you bow. All in all it was a good, clean, classy concert. There was no profanity. This from a band that in the 80s was accused of including backwards satanic messages embedded in their songs (see “Heavy Metal Poisoning” from Kilroy Was Here (1983). This was very refreshing. The audience was a mixture of fans aged 20 to 70. They played all the classic hits and a couple of “B-sides” after explaining to (some of) the audience what an album was and that you used to have to turn them over. They did not play “Mr. Roboto” nor “Don’t Let it End” but they were not missed.

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