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Concert Reviews:
Styx sails away in classic rock pairing with Yes

for Journal Register Newspapers

Posted: Thursday, July 21, 2011

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INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- In the world of classic rock distinctions, pomp beats prog -- at least that was the case on Wednesday night (July 20) at the DTE Energy Music Theatre.

If the union of Yes and Styx on the same bill seemed odd on paper, it definitely played out that way in the flesh before a crowd that filled about a third of the amphitheater on a sweltering summer night. With its ambitious arrangements and virtuoistic musicianship, Yes may hold the upper hand on the credibility strata, but Styx's parade of 70s and 80s hits along with its gleefully self-deprecating showmanship proved difficult to follow.

Styx, mind you, has a bit of progressive side, too, which the American group was anxious to show off on Wednesday via less-celebrated album tracks such as "One With Everything," "Man in the Wilderness," "Suite: Madame Blue" and "Crystal Ball." But the meat of the 85-minute set -- and what an exuberant body of fans really came to see -- was those hits, a cadre of hooky and over-the-top favorites such as "Blue Collar Man," "The Grand Illusion," "Too Much Time on My Hands," "Lady" and "Lorelei," dished up with pompy, tight-trousered rock star exuberance. Original bassist Chuck Panozzo also joined the quintet for "Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)," the anthemic "Come Sail Away" and the encore "Renegade."

And give the Styx guys credit; heat or not they still wore their leather pants and buttoned-up Nehru-styled jackets -- though they were certainly quick to shed the latter after the first couple of songs.

Simply put, Styx threw down a gauntlet that Yes, with its intricate, suite-like progressive rock epics, was hard-pressed to pick up -- especially after it started slowly with the obscure "Tempus Fugit" and a particularly sluggish "Yours is No Disgrace." Nimble-fingered guitarist Steve Howe was consistently dazzling player, but Benoit David, though he's improved as a singer still was not an engaging frontman and particularly needs to take remedial classes in between-song patter.

The 90-minute set -- before a noticeably smaller crowd -- simply lacked any sort of flow or dynamic sensibility. "Fly From Here I: We Can Fly," the sole track from the quintet's new album, worked well, as did "I've Seen All Good People" and "And You I." But Yes played "Owner of a Lonely Heart," its sole No. 1 hit, seemingly as a requirement, while the outro portion of "Starship Trooper" was a formless mess. "Roundabout" was a crowd-pleasing encore, but by that time it was clear that in the future Yes needs to either choose its touring partners more carefully or just perform the entire evening itself, which has always been the best way to see the band.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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