by Steven Sanchez
One of the defining hits for the classic rock band Styx is “Fooling Yourself” (The Angry Young Man), and it has a lyric that goes, “And you’re fooling yourself if you don’t believe it. You’re kidding yourself if you don’t believe it.” For the 1,500 fans that attended the Styx concert at the Bakersfield Fox Theater on January 15, there was no fooling or kidding them to believe that even after 40-plus years in the music business, the Chicago rock ensemble continues to thrive, and their live show is proof of that.
In support of their sixteenth studio album The Mission, they came to the Kern County city to start their 2019 tour with Bakersfield as their fourth date and one out of five California stops. They played all the favorites that have become staples in the classic rock radio format and exhibited some of their new songs. The track that stood out the most was “Mission to Mars,” since it was reminiscent of what an early Styx song would sound like.
They introduced Will Evankovich to the stage to play on a few of their originals. He served as the producer of this album, and I saw him perform a few months back in Fresno when he was with The Guess Who. How envious I am of his career, to play with two of the most iconic bands in the history of the genre.
Then as the set was nearing towards the middle, that’s when they presented Chuck Panozzo, the bassist and one of the original founding members of the band. He continued to play with them throughout the night.
During the band’s intermission, one stood alone; their vocalist/keyboardist, Lawrence Gowan, was behind the keyboard with his back toward the crowd, and went into a Mozart-like solo galore that left people cheering. It went from a rock show to a classical showcase, and it was fitting since the Cathedral-like interior complimented Gowan’s style of play. To heighten up the crowd, he sang and played a snippet of Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” and then transitioned into the crescendo-choir part of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and he instructed us to sing along. It turns out he was just priming us up for the epic, “Come Sail Away.” They even did a raffle of picking out a ticket for a lucky fan whose name was called to win a guitar that was signed by the band at the end of show provided by their own charity, Rock to The Rescue.
For a band that talks about futuristic themes, I felt like I was transported back in time to their heyday circa late 70s/early 80s to experience their glory supplied with high vocals and harmonies, piercing keyboard notes, the synchronized lighting patterns, thundering guitar solos, etc. Obviously, for the majority of the attendees there this was the defining soundtrack of their upbringing, but in one night I saw their age go in reverse for each popular jam they played. It was before my time, but I could make a clear picture in my mind of what it was like for these men when they were young confessing their love to a girl to the lyrics of “Lady,” or slowing dancing to the piano part of “Come Sail Away” at the high school dance, or rocking out to “Renegade” driving around town with your friends looking for something to do. And they played “Mr. Roboto” for the first time ever on this tour. They made it seem like the concert was over as the lights went black. No way this could be it. Then they came out and sang the lyrics, “Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto” and everybody there was wonderstruck. It’s got a controversial history as fans either love or hate the song, but that night, everybody enjoyed it.They’re about to embark on a busy Spring touring schedule with there being seven dates where they’ll be partnering with an unconventional supporting act…Larry The Cable Guy. Rock and comedy together on one stage? “We are playing in areas of the country where Larry The Cable Guy is popular. We have the same booking agent. It was the agent’s idea,” says lead guitarist James “JY” Young. “We’ve hung out with him before, and he’s a great guy. You get tired of doing the same thing over and over again, we’ve been on tour with a lot of bands, and this is an experiment we want to go along with.”
I talked to JY about the possibility of being inducted into the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame since they just announced the inductees recently. There’s been a big push from their fans and rock enthusiasts who believe they deserve to be enshrined. Known as being the only band to have four multi-platinum selling albums in a row. I hold true to the statement that, “I got to see it to believe it.” Well, after watching them live, there’s no fooling or kidding me, I believe they deserve to be in the Hall of Fame.
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