“This was a challenge and a Joy,” declared James “JY” Young, founding member of arena rock legends Styx, as he addresses the audience at the historic Orpheum Theater in Memphis. James then continues to explain that performing two full albums back to back in their entirety in one concert, including several songs which have never been played live before, forced the band to work hard to prove it could be accomplished. The feat of musical prowess was captured November of 2010 in high definition with eleven cameras for DVD and released as “The Grand Illusion-Pieces of Eight Live.”
The opening screen roll pays homage to “Star Wars” and beckons you back to the golden age of vinyl 1978, then the stage is revealed with a mountain of guitar amps and huge battery of drums, a 40 foot video screen, blazing lights and all the classic rock finery you could ask for.
Styx launch into a two-hour eighteen-song show full of mega hits and forgotten gems played with immortal gusto. Since the bands official reforming in 1999, they have averaged over 100 dates a year, and have honed their live show skills which are all on display here, proving why they remain a consistent concert draw worldwide.
Keyboardist/vocalist Lawrence Gowen, with his lilting brogue seamlessly replaces founder Dennis DeYoung and shines on Styx staples “Come Sail Away,” and “Queen of Spades.” Drum kit monster Todd Sucherman, who stepped in for the ailing John Ponozzo before his passing in 96, displays why he has become a hero of the modern drum world, adding new fire to every song with an arsenal of blazing fills.
Tommy Shaw must have found the rock and roll fountain of youth as he lost none of his sparking tenor. This concert showcases his unsung guitar skills as he trades licks with JY during point-counter-point orchestrations that set the blue print for progressive rock. Shaw’s songwriting heyday is also on display on the hit “Fooling Yourself,” and the lesser known tracks “Man in the Wilderness,” and “Sing for the Day.” The climax of the concert is for certain the ripping “Blue Collar Man,” a song that JY notes “is unfortunately still so relevant today.”
The DVD includes a fantastic bonus feature “Putting On The Show.” This behind the scenes short of interviews with the band and crew reveals why this DVD sounds so amazing. “Grand Illusion-Pieces of Eight-Live” is a treat not only for Styx fans, but everyone who’s ever played air guitar and drums at an arena concert or sun along to these great anthems.