Styx Strut Their Stuff on the High Seas – Concert Review
Reviewing a Styx show that took place aboard a cruise ship without using a single 'Come Sail Away'-related pun is going to be difficult. But will it be impossible? Let's find out!
The perks of this job aren't quite what I had been led to believe; free records don't pour into the UCR mailbox at nearly the rate you might think. But for the second time in a year the fine folks at Carnival Cruise Lines' Carnival Live Concert Series invited us on a voyage that would feature a concert by one of classic rock's biggest bands, held in a lovely and extremely intimate theater right on board their newest cruise ship: the massive, modern and impeccably clean Carnival Breeze.
The cruise itself, unsurprisingly, was a total blast -- we had smooth seas the whole way, ate good food, met fun people, saw a school of dolphins racing along next to the ship, visited exciting destinations such as Jamaica and Grand Cayman and so on.
But of course the highlight for us and the borderline lunatic rock fans all around us was the Styx concert, held as the boat was docked in Cozumel, Mexico. The band had mentioned during a pre-show soundcheck Q&A that they had been snorkeling and exploring all day, and it seemed pretty clear from their smiles and between-song joking that the vacation vibes had rubbed off on this hard-touring group as well.
After opening with a rousing version of 'The Grand Illusion' that found guitarists Tommy Shaw and James "JY" Young hamming it with the front-row crowd while trading solos, the group unleashed a 1-2-3 combination of hits -- 'Too Much Time on My Hands,' 'Lady' and 'Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)' -- that showed both their range and their impeccable gift for hooks.
Young seemed particularly animated at the show, sharing an extended story about the substance-related "misbehavior" of the band's early years before leading a version of the pro-pot anthem 'Light Up' that quickly became a cellphone-lighted singalong. (It would seem everybody was either unsuccessful or very discreet about their ability to smuggle any of the celebrated substance aboard the ship, if you were wondering.)
Singer-keyboardist Lawrence Gowan was no less a lovable ham on this night than when we saw him last year, but the up-close perspective makes you realize what an impressive musician and frontman he truly is. You know that awesome keyboard solo from 'Fooling Yourself'? He played the whole thing behind his back, standing facing away from the keyboard while also dancing and trading glances with about a half-dozen different audience members. Yes, it was us who compared him to Dana Carvey's George Michael impression, but to tell the truth, the movie 'Amadeus' might be a better reference point.
Shaw also got a nice chance to stand out during the opening acoustic segment of a surprise performance of one of his earliest contributions to the band's catalog, 'Crystal Ball.' Soon after, the parade of heavyweight hits came out, including an extra hard-hitting version of 'Blue Collar Man,' and the amazing nautically titled song we're not allowing ourselves to mention by name here (but which was really performed well), and of course 'Renegade.'
And that was it. The crowd was happy, the ship's bars were all still open for hours and nobody had to worry about driving home drunk. What more could you want from a night out? The band must have enjoyed themselves, too -- they just signed up for four more Carnival Live shows, set to take place in June 2015. Journey will also be climbing aboard for two concerts in March. You can get all the information at Carnival Live's website.
(We did it!)
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