Last Night: Styx at Reliant Stadium
When Styx made the decision to open with "Blue Collar Man" last night at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, I couldn't decide at first if the band was pandering to its anticipated crowd at something as common as a rodeo or being clever. I vacillated when Lawrence Gowan -- the Scots-Canadian replacement for former front man Dennis DeYoung, who famously split from the band in 1999 -- made a couple of jokes about sheep over the course of the ten-song show.
What sealed the deal, however, was the overtly patriotic display of animated stars and stripes exploding onto the curved wall behind the band when Styx shuffled out "Miss America," a song about as patriotic as J. Geils Band's "Centerfold." Whether it was the band or the Rodeo that decided this song should be played -- and backed in such odd fashion -- one thing was clear: Styx may have been trying a little too hard to fit in.
Not that I can blame the band. The bill at the weeks-long RodeoHouston concert series has become increasingly diverse over the years, steering away from hosting only country favorites toward acts that will bring in different crowds every night. Witness Thursday's bill of squeaky-voiced crooner Bruno Mars or this past Sunday's double-header of Demi Lovato -- a Disney teen star -- and some equally tween-ish singer called Austin Mahone whom I'd never heard of until the Rodeo brought him to town.
While some in the audience were clearly peeved that not all of their own favorite hits were played, the great thing about a band like Styx is that it has no shortage of instantly recognizable songs to choose from in concert.
"Babe" -- the band's only No. 1 song -- was the most notable omission of the night, but that's likely only because it's a DeYoung song through and through. All of the original harmonies were even DeYoung himself, layering vocal track upon vocal track in the studio. And Monday night's harmonies started out rough enough as it was.
Tommy Shaw's voice was shaky and gruff as he worked his way though "Blue Collar Man," as were the backing vocals provided by James Young -- the only "original" member of Styx left now that John Panozzo and John Curulewski have passed away, Chuck Panozzo makes only occasional concert apperances and DeYoung rebuffs any calls of "Let's get the band back together!" with Broadway theatricality.