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Styx - Styx and the Contemporary Youth Orchestra Of Cleveland: One With Everything CD (album) cover

STYX AND THE CONTEMPORARY YOUTH ORCHESTRA OF CLEVELAND: ONE WITH EVERYTHING

Styx

 

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3.73 | 14 ratings

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Finnforest
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Youth to the rescue

When Styx disemboweled their former leader Dennis DeYoung after the "Brave New World" album, I was pretty certain what remained of the group was not something I'd be interested in. Even with DeYoung, the band was not what it used to be decades ago. But I took a chance on this DVD and found it to be quite a spot of fun for the Styxian fan. The secret ingredient was youth. The Contemporary Youth Orchestra (CYO) to be exact, a 171-piece orchestra and choir of students 13-19 years old. The huge rush of energy and enthusiasm made for an evening you almost have to appreciate as an affirmation of life even if you don't like Styx. The excitement of these kids to be performing with a rock band and making a DVD was just contagious. There is one moment where Shaw pulls a young violinist aside and basically trades trades guitar/violin licks with her, it was heartwarming stuff.

The band themselves were up for the evening as well. This was my first chance to view the new Styx without DeYoung and John Panozzo. The new band is more streamlined hard rock with less of DeYoung's grand theatrical vibe. His replacement is very competent and can mimic DeYoung fairly well, not unlike the way Horn sounded a bit like Anderson on Drama. Drummer Todd Sucherman is a very pleasant surprise, taking the intensity of the band up several notches. John Panozzo was a good drummer for Styx, he played with a certain personality, but Sucherman kills the kit. Smokin' playing that is fun to watch. Tommy and JY are both in fine form despite their advancing years. The spotlight is certainly on Shaw now and he holds his own. Unlike Robert Plant and others whose voices are shot, Tommy hits his high notes and sings with decent power and energy.

Highlights of the festive evening include a roaring full orchestral opening to the organ strains of "Blue Collar Man" which put Shaw's back against the wall straight out of the gate, and he was primed from the git-go. There was a bunch of new material in the first half. Shaw's peaceful "Just Be" let him share some nice memories of his father over inspired lead guitar work, while Gowen's "A Criminal Mind" really sold me on his talents. Gowen brings a different kind of pop prowess to Styx that is hard to describe but quite effective. A real treat was hearing Tommy Shaw deliver a heartfelt and spot-on performance of "Crystal Ball," his first song for Styx and one I don't recall hearing them do live before. Equally good was the old favorite "Boat on the River." JY used his segment to tear it up with "Miss America." His voice isn't quite as well preserved as Shaw's but he is very close, certainly gets the job done. The end of the show turns into a big party, looking something like an overnight school teen party as the kids start dancing around the band's 18-song medley of old hits. Cheesy yeah, but if you're watching this DVD you already like the band, so what the hell? Last comes a really decent version of "Fooling Yourself" with the choir's high voices sounding great behind Shaw's signature track. Chuck Panozzo comes out at the end to jam with the band.

Only once did they commit the sin of dragging their rears on a track, in this case "Too Much Time On My Hands." The surest sign of old fart creep for a band is when they start slowing down upbeat rockers, as Rush and others will do. Nothing worse than "Freewill" or "Spirit of Radio" or any urgent track slowed down from the studio speed, it just kills the experience. Shaw does it on this track and the life is sucked from it as you'd expect.

It's a real shame the core members of Styx could not bury their past pettiness as the two camps would be so much better together. But the Young/Shaw camp wanted to be road rats and if this DVD is an indication, they're having their fun, which is good. This is a "for fans" DVD that also happens to be "good but not essential", so we're in 2-3 star range. I'm a fan, I'll go 3.

Finnforest | 3/5 |

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