Dennis DeYoung

The Sands, Bethlehem, PA

Dennis DeYoung - Grand Illusion 40th Anniversary Tour
The Sands - Bethlehem, PA - March 24, 2018

Dennis DeYoung, singer-songwriter, musician and producer, a founding member, lead vocalist and keyboardist of the rock band Styx, enthusiastically stood on stage at The Sands in Bethlehem on Sat. March 24th and asked the packed house, “Who here is seeing me for the first time tonight?” As a smattering of audience members raised their hands and cheered, DeYoung proudly responded, “What’s taken you so long? I’m 71 years old!!”,  bringing laughter and applause from the adoring crowd. DeYoung’s enthusiasm and pride in the music he’s created, in his current band, in his wife of 48 years (a back-up singer for the band), as well as in his ongoing ability to perform, is clearly evident.

There remains a theatrical quality to Dennis DeYoung which correlates to Styx’s chart-topping concept albums in the early 1980s. However, it was DeYoung’s increased theatrical direction, in opposition to his bandmates, who favored a harder-edged sound, that ultimately led to the break up of the band in 1984, after over 12 years and 11 albums.

DeYoung grew up outside Chicago and began his vocal career at 14 years old, when he teamed up with neighborhood friends, Chris and John Panozzo. By the late 1960s the trio added James Young and John Curulewski to the group, and in 1972 renamed the band Styx. 
DeYoung is a self-taught keyboardist, who adeptly taught himself to switch from acoustic piano to recording on an electric piano, and became one of the most notable players in rock. His prominent lead synthesizer solos were a key element to the Styx sound. DeYoung ultimately wrote and sang lead on 6 of the band’s 7 top 10 Billboard Hot 100-ranked hits from 1972-1984. 

Styx’s commercial success began with the DeYoung written “Lady” which was released in 1973 on the band’s second album Styx II. While the song was a local hit in their hometown of Chicago, it did not gain success until 1974, when the group moved to A&M Records and the song received nationwide airplay. In March 1975, “Lady” reached #6 on the Billboard Top 40. By this time, the group had released 5 albums. However, in December 1975, John Curulewski departed the band and guitarist Tommy Shaw was brought in as his replacement. 

It was Styx’s 7th album, The Grand Illusion, released on 7/7/77, that was their breakthrough,  reaching triple platinum, and including the DeYoung written “Come Sail Away”, a #8 hit in 1978.  The group’s 9th album, Cornerstone (1979) with DeYoung’s ballad “Babe” yielded Styx’s first and only #1 hit. DeYoung had not originally written the song as a Styx track, but as a birthday present for his wife Suzanne.

With the success of “Babe”, DeYoung pushed for the band to move in a more theatrical direction, at the opposition of Young and Shaw. However, tensions were smoothed over and the band produced the concept album Paradise Theater in 1981. Paradise Theater became Styx's biggest hit album, reaching #1on the Billboard pop albums charts, and included DeYoung’s #3 single, “The Best of Times”.  After their 4th multi-platinum success, the band followed DeYoung’s direction with a rock opera format concept album, Kilroy Was Here, which went platinum in 1983, and included the #3 hit, “Mr Roboto” and the #6 hit, “Don’t Let It End”.  An elaborate stage show and tour were developed in support of the album. However, by the time Kilroy Was Here was released, the creative tensions amongst band members led to their parting of ways.

Dennis DeYoung released his first solo album Dessert Moon, in August 1984, and scored a top 10 hit with the title track. Future solo albums had a more modest but loyal fan base. In 1990 Styx reformed, without Shaw, who was committed to another band, and released one album, Edge of the Century. The DeYoung ballad, “Show Me the Way” peaked at #3 on the pop singles chart in 1991 and is Styx’s 8th and last top 10 Billboard single. After touring in 1991 the band again disbanded due to lack of interest from the music industry. 

Styx reunited in 1995, with Shaw returning to the group to re-record “Lady” for Styx Greatest Hits. This reunion was followed by a successful Return to Paradise tour, with a two-disc live set, Return to Paradise reaching gold status in 1997. In 1999, the band returned to the studio and released their first new album in almost a decade, Brave New World. However, the album sold slowly and past personality conflicts arose throughout the work process. DeYoung’s health issues led to the band choosing to tour without him (against DeYoung’s wishes), and ultimately resulted in the end of DeYoung’s tenure with the band.

Dennis DeYoung has continued in his solo career and has been touring since 2000. He has performed tours with a 50-piece orchestra, participated in benefit concerts, and has received awards for his musical theater renditions. In 2010 DeYoung formed a band to recapture the sound and look of the original Styx band. (A court settlement with former band members allows DeYoung to tour using his name with “the music of Styx”, while his former members, touring using the name Styx, have replaced DeYoung.) DeYoung’s keyboard player John Blasucci has been with DeYoung since 2005, and James Young look-alike, guitarist and backing vocalist Jimmy Leahey, joined DeYoung in 2008. However, when DeYoung’s son found August Zadra on YouTube, the Tommy Shaw look-alike and sound-alike astonished DeYoung. Finding Zadra gave DeYoung and his audiences the Styx sound they loved (and missed) and the opportunity to hear all of Styx’s songs (including those sang by Shaw). Completing the band is Craig Carter, playing bass and backing vocals since 2010, Michael Morales, playing drums with the band since 2016, and DeYoung’s beloved wife on backing vocals.

For Styx fans from the 70s and 80s, listening to Dennis DeYoung and his band perform on the Grand Illusion 40th Anniversary Tour, transports you back to a time, place and feeling of decades ago. The sound is that authentic, as is the spirit. As nostalgic as DeYoung’s fans are for the Styx music, DeYoung himself appears as nostalgic, and appreciative of the opportunity to continue sharing the music that’s been part of his life for over 4 decades. DeYoung’s voice remains strong as he moves from lead vocal to keyboardist, showcasing his innate theatrical nature through his expressions, movements and occasional banter with the audience.  DeYoung is as awed as his fans are that it’s been 40 years since releasing The Grand Illusion. “I heard 70 is the new 50. I guess 50 feels feels pretty bad then!”, he jokes with the crowd.

While the audience has come to hear DeYoung and relive the music of Styx, the authenticity of the experience is as much a result of August Zadra, who embodies the music as if it was his own. Not only is Zadra a look-alike and sound-alike for Tommy Shaw, but he demonstrates an infectious joy and enthusiasm when he sings, as well as an honor for being able to share the music of Styx with the adoring crowd. While Zadra has been with the band for the past 8 years, it’s apparent DeYoung remains awed by him and by his luck at finding this “boy wonder”, as he refers to Zadra.

There is a connection as well between DeYoung and Jimmy Leahey, and an obvious camaraderie between Zadra and Leahey.  Leahey, upfront and often center, demonstrates impressive lead guitar skills, exuding a rocker vibe, with platinum hair obscuring half his face, and a devilish grin. Zadra and Leahey play well off each other. Their investment in the music and in their performance is evidenced by how engaged and passionate they appear to be. Both Zadra and Leahey perform with various bands and musicians when not performing alongside Dennis DeYoung. However, on the stage they present with a commitment to the music of Styx, to Dennis DeYoung and to the adoring Styx fans, leading all to believe that this music is in their heart and soul.  Dennis DeYoung and his band won’t disappoint if you are looking to hear the sounds of Styx, enjoy the theatrical nature of DeYoung and participate in the enthusiasm of the band members and the crowd.

SET LIST

Set 1
            
The Grand Illusion - (Styx song)
Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man) - (Styx song)
Superstars - (Styx song)
Come Sail Away  (Styx song)
Miss America - (Styx song)
Man in the Wilderness - (Styx song)
Castle Walls - (Styx song)
The Grand Finale -(Styx song)
Set 2

Lorelei -( Styx song)
Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)
Lady -(Styx song)
Mr. Roboto - (Styx song)
Too Much Time on My Hands
Babe - (Styx song)
Prelude 12 / Suite Madame Blue
The Best of Times  - (Styx song)
A.D. 1958 - (Styx song)

Encore

Renegade  - (Styx song)
(followed by 'Come Sail Away' reprise)



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