Thankfully, Styx is still going strong, and the “Too Much Time on My Hands,” “Blue Collar Man” and “Come Sail Away” hitmakers are returning to the land of the Rangers and the Cowboys for a show on Saturday, Oct. 16, at Levitt Pavilion in Arlington.
In the recent past, Styx has experienced a creative resurgence. After spending years solely touring the classic rock nostalgia circuit, the band broke a 14-year drought and brought out original material in 2017 with their concept album The Mission, following it up rather quickly earlier this year with Crash of The Crown. Both albums were helmed primarily by singer/guitarist Tommy Shaw, who took the reins of the new material alongside producer and former Guess Who guitarist Will Evankovich.
Surprisingly, the album is the first not to have any songwriting contribution from the band’s founder, lead guitarist James Young.
“I had other things that I had been putting off for years that I devoted my attention to,” Young says. “When it was time to record, I showed up and they said, ‘JY you’re playing these parts and singing these harmonies. No one plays guitar solos like you,’ is what Will would always say. ‘We need a JY magic guitar solo here and here and here. …”
Young says he doesn’t mind handing away his share of control of the band for the moment; historically, Styx’s leadership has shifted when needed: “From time to time, different ones of us have carried the load, and Lawrence Gowan has been a tremendous addition. He’s phenomenal.” It’s a funny thing: Styx fans refer to Gowan as “the new guy,” but he’s been in the band longer than founding member and original keyboardist/frontman Dennis DeYoung. “Dennis was no slouch,” Young continues. “He was certainly a powerful singer and a very driven songwriter.”
DeYoung, who acrimoniously left the band in 1999, has long been a sore spot for the other members of Styx, who have constantly fielded inquiries about a reunion. It’s surprising to hear Young mention him at all.
“Dennis and I has numerous differences, but we put that aside in the beginning for the sake of the team. The running back can’t call plays when the quarterback … I don’t know,” Young laughs, losing track of his own metaphor.
Young is an interesting conversationalist. He somehow simultaneously maintains an air of upright seriousness that the founder and soul constant member of any band should carry, but also lapses into moments of comedic relief. This is reflected in his songwriting contributions to the band over the years. Rockers like “Heavy Water,” kinetic jumping-for-joy-anthems like “Lorelei,“ and even his tongue-in-cheek contribution to the controversial and overambitious Kilroy Was Here album, “Heavy Metal Poisoning.“
Styx’s relentless touring schedule is influenced in part by Young’s inherent love for the road. “I love being on the concert stage. I’ve been nomadic by nature since my dad packed the family in a ’56 Buick and we drove to California. Disneyland wasn’t even finished. We drove by and it was under construction. We all looked over and said ‘What’s that?’”
While Styx has been making the rounds for years, the need to support new material has shifted their focus from simply “shutting up and playing the hits“ to re-energizing what it means to be Styx. On this latest leg, audience members will notice a new face on stage, as Evankovich will join them as a touring member, making Styx a three-guitar band for the first time.
Young says that, in addition to expanding the band’s musical dynamic and capabilities, Evankovich is able to fill his own shoes in case any personal issues pull him away from the stage. “People change their lives to go to concerts, and they expect to hear the songs they love a certain way. I hate canceling or postponing if something happens to me. It’s human nature that one of us is going to get sick and won’t be able to perform. We’ve sort of all become germaphobes, or what would you call it for viruses? ‘Viro-phobes?’” Young laughs and returns to Earth. “I’ve got backups for everything I do. I’ve got two cars in case one breaks down. Will is a great guy, I didn’t even really know him before we started recording. He practically plays my solos better than I can.”
Styx and opening act Taylor Young Band take the stage at Levitt Pavilion Arlington, 505 E. Border St., on Oct. 16. Gates open a 6:30 p.m., and the show begins at 7:30 p.m.