Concert Review: Dennis DeYoung Delivers Unforgettable Night of Rock Hits
Saturday night’s Dennis DeYoung concert at the Pompano Beach Amphitheater had all the elements of a great rock show: lots of leather, big hair, animal print, and the occasional whiff of cannabis, and that was just the audience. What happened that night was nothing short of spectacular. DeYoung and Co. brought The Grand Illusion 40th Anniversary Album Tour to an intimate gathering of his most loyal fans who came to see the former longtime Styx frontman.
On the coolest night in South Florida this year, devout Styx fans came to hear Dennis DeYoung who, despite being 72, looks as incredible as he sounds. Perhaps he has a lifetime pass to the fountain of youth, something we all wish we had.
Rock power band Night Ranger got things started with an awe-inspiring rock show that made you realize how incredibly talented the band remains. Night Ranger has always been known for telling a great story through their music, and it was great to see that they still do. In what can only be described as the perfect pairing for a rock concert with Dennis DeYoung, founding members Jack Blades, Brad Gillis, and Kelly Keagy along with Eric Levy and Keri Kelli delivered a robust performance of Night Ranger hits including fan-favorites “When You Close Your Eyes” and “Sister Christian.” They also played a cover of the supergroup Damn Yankees’ mega-hit “High Enough;” Blades remains a member of Damn Yankees despite the fact that they remain on a musical interlude.
DeYoung, dressed in a formal royal blue ship captain’s jacket, immediately engaged and connected with the audience, sharing tales how it all started and what led him to where he is today. DeYoung appreciates his audience, and everyone who was there knew it. Clearly, this band is having fun, playing some of the most recognized radio hit rock songs to ever come out of a stereo speaker. It was quite refreshing that this band isn’t simply showing up but truly cares about their appearance, albeit the band dressed as rock stars while DeYoung the captain commanded the ship and offered a memorable rock show. Dennis DeYoung has assembled a group of accomplished and skilled musicians for his band who make an effort to recreate the spirit and sounds of Styx. This isn’t a cover band; this is Styx 2.0. His concert combined ballads, bass, and ear-splitting guitar riffs, and even his own unique humor that kept the audience singing and laughing during his 90-minute set.
There is a point of contention when you talk about DeYoung’s career. Did he part ways with Styx one too many times? Too early? Perhaps, but one thing is for certain; he is one of the greatest all-time voices in the history of rock. Unfortunately DeYoung often gets overlooked because he had desire to take his music in a direction that didn’t align with what the rest of what Styx wanted to do, and for this he hardly gets mentioned.
With August Zadra and Jimmy Leahey, who share lead guitar and vocals, and John Blasucci on keyboards along with Craig Carter on bass and Michael Morales pounding on the drums, this band delivered a performance that gained the respect of the audience. If you’ve attended a Dennis DeYoung concert in the last nine years, you know that this group will rock you hard, delivering the classic sounds of Styx that every rock music fan will recognize.
With the intimate crowd already standing and indeed ready to rock, things got started with tour namesake “The Grand Illusion,” a hit song and title track from their 1977 album. They quickly burned through a medley of Styx favorites including “Mr. Roboto,” “Come Sail Away,” and “The Best of Times.” If you came for an all-hits show, DeYoung delivered; unlike many concerts that feature a few super hits, this show delivered the complete catalog of hits from the first note to the final bow. Listening to the audience sing every song word for word can only be described as a spiritual experience.
DeYoung reached his greatest success as the lead vocalist for Styx, the Chicago-born band that he co-founded in 1972. Styx reached major success with 16 Top-40 singles in the U.S., eight of which hit the Top 10. Dennis DeYoung wrote seven of the eight, including their biggest hit, “Babe.”
While introducing his fellow bandmates, DeYoung pointed to his wife, Suzanne, who is an important part of the band and sings backup vocals; this year they will celebrate 50 years of marriage. DeYoung appears somewhat smitten by his beauty in the back; it’s easy to perceive that she has been aboard the ship during their entire journey. DeYoung pointed out that he wrote “Babe” as a birthday present for his wife without ever expecting it to become one of the best rock ballads of all time.
As the night came to a close, DeYoung told the audience, “This is the moment we leave the stage and pretend were not coming back on, you clap for a few minutes, and then we reappear.” He then said, “Let’s skip that part and continue the music,” and rock on they did. The night could not close without two of Styx’s harder rock songs, “Renegade” and a reprise of “Come Sail Away.” As the fans left the venue, they appeared satisfied, having had the opportunity to see and hear a legendary voice they grew up listening to. While there are many who have come to accept that there will be two bands touring and playing Styx music, there is one musician, Dennis DeYoung, who hopes to be reunited with his childhood friends and recreate the magic they shared as teenagers that led them to a storied music career. Perhaps time will heal the great divide that has kept DeYoung from rejoining his former band, but one thing is for certain; time does not wait. Perhaps with egos in check, the real winners will be the fans who would appreciate one last reunion while the members can still rock.
Setlist: The Grand Illusion, Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man), Superstars, Come Sail Away, Miss America, Man in the Wilderness, Castle Walls, The Grand Finale, Lorelei, Keyboard Solo, Blue Collar Man (Long Nights), Lady, Mr. Roboto, Too Much Time on My Hands, Desert Moon, Babe, Prelude 12, Suite Madame Blue, The Best of Times(with guitar solo outro), A.D. 1958 (with “The End” by The Beatles snippet), Renegade, Come Sail Away (Reprise)