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Dennis DeYoung: The Music Of Styx (Saturday, July 2, 2005, Harriet Island, St. Paul, MN)
Dennis DeYoung at Taste of Chicago, 2003 - Photo from DeYoung's website, copyright Roy Ferrer

By Sean Sauder

I would have gone to see Dennis DeYoung at Taste Of Minnesota even if John Waite hadn’t been opening – it was free, it was a great day for an outdoor concert, and what else did I have to do? -- but the John Waite opening show ensured my attendance.

I admit, my first thought was that this was going to be more funny than fun, especially after seeing the Styx Behind The Music episode where DeYoung’s former bandmates had quite the good time taking shots at him. And honestly, he seemed like an easy target. DeYoung is more of the theatrical, sensitive type, while Tommy Shaw and James "JY" Young, were the rockers in the band. So maybe it always was a bit of an odd collaboration. But somehow it seemed to work anyway. (For the record, I was always more of a Tommy Shaw guy - sorry, Dennis.)

Make no mistake, Dennis DeYoung made me laugh many times, but it was laughing with him, not laughing at him. He doesn't take himself too seriously (something many other musicians could take a lesson from), and he's willing to poke a little fun at himself, too. Towards the beginning of the show, he mentioned that he was in his 50's and asked how many people were seeing him for the first time. A large number of hands went up, and he asked, "Where the hell have you been?! I've been doing this for 30 years!" He added that a good thing about being in his 50's is that he doesn't have to try and be cool anymore.

The show featured Dennis DeYoung performing the music he wrote with Styx, with a full band and orchestra. Now, I'm old enough to have bought some Styx albums when they first came out. (I wore out my cassettes of Cornerstone, The Grand Illusion, Paradise Theater, and Kilroy Was Here), and I was around when Styx was featured in magazines, played on the radio, and were on TV. But I was too young to have seen them live, so I was looking forward to hearing some of these songs performed in concert for the first time.

Dennis took the stage, with his white hair, white slacks, white jacket and white tennis shoes, and a black shirt and black socks. He didn't waste time with filler material, opening up in grand fashion with "Grand Illusion." Seating himself at the grand piano, he followed up with "Lady." The third song of the evening was "Desert Moon", a song I had completely forgotten about, and wasn't even a Styx song, but a 1984 solo release.

It was easy to see where the theatrical side of Styx came from. Throughout the evening Dennis was full of one-liners and interesting stories. Here are a few I can remember:

- "I'd like to introduce the band. (turns to bassist and guitarist): "Hank, this is Tommy."

- "I grew up on the Southside of Chicago. Just three doors down from Leroy Brown." (referencing the lyrics from "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" by Jim Croce).

- Introducing "Castle Walls", he recounted how parts of the song were inspired by the movie, The Exorcist, and how when Styx was on tour when the movie came out they went to the premiere in New York City. He then said how it was funny years later that "a band member that shall remain nameless, Tommy Shaw" (this got quite a laugh from the crowd), dated the star of the movie, Linda Blair.

Anyone familiar with Styx or who has seen the Behind The Music episode, knows that family is important to Dennis. He told the story of how he met his future wife, Suzanne, when she was 15 and he was 17 ("or was I 35 - just kidding"), and that they'll be celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary this year. Suzanne is also one of his back up singers, and son Matthew is the lighting director for his shows, so both were on hand tonight.

Almost every song from the show was a hit. Of course "Mr. Roboto" got an enthusiastic response, as did the show closer, "Best Of Times". There was only one thing missing, and everyone knew what it was - "Come Sail Away", which was the encore. I can't describe what a cool thing it was to look behind me at the thousands of people that seemed to stretch out forever, hear those first notes of "Come Sail Away" on the piano and hear every one of those people sing as loud as they could, "I'm sailing awaaayyy..."

Would the show have been better if it was Styx, with at the very least, Tommy and JY still performing with Dennis? Sure, but it's not a perfect world, so you get what you get. The moral of the story is: good music is good music. The music press tend to dismiss anything that isn't the current flavor of the month as passé or uncool just because it's enjoyed by the masses or not brand new. But will any of these new, hip, cutting edge bands that all the critics are touting now be able to draw several thousand people to a performance in 30 years? Will they be able to put together a 15 song setlist consisting of almost exclusively Top 40 hits? Will they even still be playing at all? Dare I say, not many. This alone is an impressive accomplishment for Dennis DeYoung.

Set List:

Grand Illusion
Desert Moon
Pieces Of Eight
Show Me The Way
Castle Walls
Light Up
Debussy's "Clair de Lune"
Don't Let It End
Mr. Roboto
Rockin' The Paradise
Suite Madame Blue
Best of Times


Come Sail Away

Official Dennis DeYoung Website

Sean Sauder is