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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Styx – Grand Illusion / Pieces of Eight Live DVD review

Styx – Grand Illusion / Pieces of Eight Live DVD review
Released through: Eagle Vision. Release date: Available now

Styx! What a band, seriously, do they need any introduction? I think not!

The DVD starts with a prologue scrolling across the big video screen, behind the stage, not unlike the intro to the movie Star Wars, before a teenager walks into his bedroom - in the video - and pulls out the ‘Grand Illusion’ album by Styx and places it on the turntable which then gets zoomed in on.

Next the camera backs off from the stage and the band launches into the album title track, 'Grand Illusion' which the band still plays brilliantly today. The thing I love about this set is being able to see Styx play a different set list. I only say that, because I've been spoiled over the years insomuch as I've seen the band live, a number of times and very often the set seems a little predictable and this changes all that.

As the band starts playing the track ‘Fooling Yourself’ they then present original bass player, Chuck Panozzo, as they tend to on most live dates, these days and it’s still a great track today.

Next up is ‘Superstars,’ which is brilliant! I've never seen the band play this track live before and I really love it, especially the harmony guitar work between Tommy Shaw and original, founding guitarist James ’JY’ Young. Excellent!

‘Come Sail Away’ his next and simply epic as the band are once more joined by Chuck Panozzo on bass. I have to add that throughout the set, I am so impressed by Todd Sucherman’s drumming. His technique, his fills and more are simply fantastic!

So far in this show lead vocals have all been handled by Tommy Shaw and Lawrence Gowan, but for ‘Miss America,’ James ‘JY’ Young steps up, as they rock through the number. JY has some sweet solo work here too. Cool stuff indeed!

Tommy Shaw explains how he came to write, the next song ‘Man In The Wilderness.’ This is another joy to hear as I have never seen the band perform this live either before.
It's a beautiful track, done as if they've played every night. Perfect!
The track starts laid-back, with Tommy playing acoustic and then midway through straps on a Les Paul guitar and gets rocking some more harmony work with JY. Brilliant!

Another rare track is next with ‘Castle Walls.’ Now I have heard this live before, but only ever once. It starts with Ricky Phillips bass guitar, then Gowan joins in on keyboards and sings a classy lead vocal.

The band then eases into ‘The Grand Finale’ to wrap up the ‘Grand Illusion’ album.

Next it's time for the 'Pieces of Eight’ album, kicking off with ‘The Great White Hope’ and JY handles the main lead vocal here, following Gowan’s introduction.
There are certainly some very tight arrangements, in this track done very well indeed.

A lot of diehard fans of the band, have given them a lot of stick for the departure of Dennis DeYoung and Lawrence Gowan taking his place in Styx.
I have to tell you, those fans really need to open their eyes or ears even, as Lawrence Gowan does a killer job on keyboards, with some excellent lead breaks and his vocals work perfectly!

Gowan introduces and sings ‘I’m OK’ and it's really great to hear. So good ...

‘Sing For The Day,’ is brilliant next - no complaints here - and it's time for Tommy to switch from electric to acoustic guitar. A nicely played number indeed …

JY takes the lead vocal for next track ‘The Message.’
Throughout the whole live performance at this show, the band has a large backing video screen, running through fireworks, lyrics and various song related images and much more too. Before you know it, the song has blended into ‘Lord of the Ring.’

Next up, probably my all-time favorite Styx song, ‘Blue Collar Man’ kicks in and it still sounds as good today as it ever did, even if Tommy’s solo is a little different these days, it still rocks!
JY says at the end of the song, ‘That's Tommy bleeping Shaw folks! Singing that song from three decades ago, that somehow is unfortunately more relevant today … I guess in this day and age, with cameras everywhere we all … Must …, beware!’  Then the band starts to play the intro to ‘Queen of Spades’ with the background behind the band changing.

   Lawrence Gowan takes the lead vocals here and it’s another of those epic masters with some fantastic lead work from JY and strong backing vocals from rest of the band. Class!

The classic hit single ‘Renegade’ is next, with Tommy taking the lead vocal and this sounds so strong, again, it doesn’t sound dated certainly not to me. The band always seems to keep it all sounding fresh.

Then its title track ‘Pieces of Eight’ and the shared harmony vocals are just great on this.
Such a class act and they always put on a great show, which this DVD more than proves.

Final track of the evening is the instrumental album closer, ‘Aku-Aku’ and this is mainly supported by video, initially focusing on the Styx ‘Pieces of Eight’ picture disc version of the album, spinning on a turntable, then as the camera backs off, it focuses on the young lad sitting in his bedroom listening to it through headphones. The camera then keeps pulling away, out his bedroom window, to give a view of an almost animated white picket fence surrounded house, then back off more across various landscape imaginary images. Think the Beatles ‘Yellow Submarine’ type video almost!
Then the track finishes, the stage lights dim and it’s done.

The bonus feature here is great, but it’s really strictly for muso’s! – Er, musicians.
It introduces all the guys that are behind the band when they hit the road, from each instrument technician, drums, guitars, keyboards, bass, etc right through the stage manager, tour manager right to the band’s manager.

It’s very detailed and it really shows EVERYTHING that it takes to put on a Styx show.

Why I think this is special is maybe, just maybe, some fans WILL take the time to watch this and really understand just how much goes into putting on a live event in EVERY detail, which hopefully will help people to comprehend, that it’s not just a band showing up to play a gig and that’s it.

The setup, running of and break down of a Styx show is a mammoth event and once you see this folks, maybe you’ll understand what goes on behind the scenes of a major band on tour.
I think it’s great and having played in bands, never at these guys level, but even at a lower level any musician will tell you just how goes into putting on a gig, even at your local bar / club / pub.

Great job guys and Eagle too for putting this out, I really enjoyed it!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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