Concert Review: Styx and REO Speedwagon Deliver High-Fidelity Sound to West Palm Beach
Styx and REO Speedwagon hold the distinction of being two of the biggest rock bands that originated from the Land of Lincoln. Both made their triumphant return to South Florida on a shirt-soaking humid Sunday night (June 19) at iTHINK Financial Amphitheater in West Palm Beach, Florida.
The two iconic bands rolled into the Sunshine State sharing top billing on their current Live and Unzoomed Summer Tour. It has been four years since they last partnered up, but this isn’t anything new for them as the Illinois rockers have been jamming together and sharing the spotlight since 2000.
Certainly one thing is clear: after nearly a century of combined musical prowess since the inception of these two rock bands, this wasn’t just a show by some aging rock bands trying to satisfy the thirst of rock music lovers who filled the amphitheater with mainly over-40-somethings; many were glad to get out to re-experience two of the most iconic bands that took them back to their high school days in the early ’80s.
Opening the night was Loverboy, the Canadian rock band that is comprised of a nearly all-original lineup with the exception of bassist Ken “Spider” Sinnaeve, who replaced original bassist Scott Smith in 2001 after his death in a boating accident. Loverboy came out ready to rock and got the throng energized and up and out of their seats. They played cuts from three of their biggest albums — Loverboy (1980), Get Lucky (1981) and Keep it Up (1983). Loverboy’s 60-minute jam session was fun and entertaining. Their set was a relentless rock show that got the music loving fans dancing in place during nearly the entire eight-song set. Of course, Loverboy played what the fans came to hear. They included fan-favorites “Lovin’ Every Minute of It,” “Hot Girls in Love,” and “Turn Me Loose” before closing with iconic MTV-video pop-rock hit “Working for the Weekend.”
With the sold-out crowd of 20,000 rock aficionados now primed and ready, the alternating headliner slot for the night belonged to Styx. However, with over 50 years and 16 studio albums under their belts, REO Speedwagon had plenty of music to offer “opening” for Styx. Digging deep into their extended catalog of tunes, REO’s setlist would include many recognized tunes along with some older material that paved the way on their rise to stardom. Of course, the cheers, applause and whistles were loud and well-deserved as the band came out to a darkened stage and appeared as moving silhouettes as they each took their places. Fans of the longtime rockers know that REO Speedwagon can also deliver an intimate ballad or two. Sunday night wasn’t any different. With keyboardist Neal Doughty serving as the lone remaining founding member of the band, he was joined on stage by longtime frontman Kevin Cronin, who looks great and hasn’t sounded better. The band is comprised of Doughty, Cronin, bassist Bruce Hall, guitarist Dave Amato, and drummer Bryan Hitt, who all took their places on the platform before the stage came alive.
They opened their set with the speedy-guitar heavy “Music Man,” a tune Cronin penned in 1972 well before the band reached major success in the early ’80s. From there they transitioned into more familiar fare like mega-hit “Take It on the Run” off their 10x platinum-selling album Hi Infidelity (1981). It was a familiar feel-good tune, a moment that got the crowd out of their seats as they joined in and sang along in harmony nearly word for word. After the sing-along, the crowd sat down to cool off from the evening’s steamy temps, catch their breaths, and enjoy the next three songs that included nostalgic track “Keep Pushin'” (1976), “Live Every Moment” (1984), and “Tough Guys” (1981), another cut off Hi Infidelity. After hearing the first few notes of REO’s very familiar romantic piano-driven huge radio hit single “Can’t Fight This Feeling,” the crowd responded by jumping to their feet and slow-dancing while once again joining in unison in singing and serving as the band’s backing singers to only one of two songs to ever reach #1 spot on the Billboard charts for REO. From there they continued with “Like You Do,” “Don’t Let Him Go,” “Time for Me to Fly,” “Back On The Road Again,” and “Ridin’ the Storm Out” before playing REO Speedwagon’s only other #1 Billboard chart-topping tune, “Keep On Loving You.” REO closed out their set with a high-energy extended version of 1978’s “Roll With the Changes” that reinvigorated the fans while setting the table for Styx. It was an energetic set of 16 songs of REO’s very best.
They delivered what people came for: a great rocking time. After countless years on the road and hundreds of shows in their wake, the demand for REO Speedwagon continues to be there. Kevin Cronin’s voice has changed, a more mature version as he enters the later stages of his career; he continues to perform like a man half his age. From the way it appears, the band isn’t going away anytime soon, and they still appear to enjoy performing; from Dave Amato’s continuous smile to Bruce Hall’s marvelous fingerpicking the bass, they appear to be having fun and grateful to continue to fill arenas and amphitheaters. Will we continue to see REO for the foreseeable future? Let’s hope so.
With the table now set and a buzz in the air, nearly everyone from the front row to the upper reaches of the lawn section was primed and ready to continue rocking the night. The first two bands got the primarily adult music lovers energized and amped up. The roadies did their work quickly, and everything was in place. As the house lights dipped, the video screen brightened with a blue tint displaying the Crash of the Crown logo appearing in center as Styx drummer Todd Sucherman was the first to walk out and take up his position behind the kit. At this point the rest of the band came out to ear-piercing cheers and whistles, something they are quite used to after more than 50 years of performing, and took their positions on stage. Within 30 seconds, the stage lights brightened, and Styx opened the with “The Fight of Our Lives,” one of several songs that would be played from the band’s latest album Crash of the Crown (2021). It didn’t take long for energetic keyboardist and showman Lawrence Gowan to start spinning his piano like a merry-go-round while having a blast doing so. Certainly Gowan brings a youthful and vibrant stage presence to Styx, adding theatrics as part of the act as he dressed in more business attire than rock star, wearing a tie for the occasion and appeared to be quite the dancer and a charismatic performer, making him a great frontman.
From there, the band jumped into the high-energy guitar-driven rock jam with Tommy Shaw handling vocals on “Blue Collar Man (Long Nights).” Next up was “The Grand Illusion,” followed by romantic ballad “Lady” that featured Gowan driving the tune on piano. Gowan engaged the crowd, strutting about the stage like a panther released from his cage. That was followed by “Crash of the Crown,” the title track from the new album not known to many fans yet. It has the familiar Styx sound and was released about a year ago. Next was “Light Up,” then back to the new music with “Sound the Alarm.” Deep-rooted Styx fans got “Rockin’ the Paradise,” one of two songs played that night off the band’s most commercially successful album Paradise Theater, released in 1981.
Appearing on stage for the first time during this show, founding bassist and local South Florida resident Chuck Panozzo (he lives in nearby Wilton Manors) joined his friends on stage for “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man).” It was great to see Panozzo, who has been increasingly more visible in the past few years while performing on select dates with his bandmates. On this tune, Shaw handled the vocals while showman Gowan played the keyboards backwards, with Young, Phillips and Evankovich adding the riffs. It was great to see Panozzo smile while adding his touch to a song that dates back to the band’s earliest days. From there Styx transitioned into Shaw singing “Too Much Time on My Hands,” another cut from Paradise Theater, which was then followed by “Khedive” and then Panozzo returning once again for “Lost at Sea.” The last song of the regular set was 1978 former top-10 hit “Come Sail Away” that included Chuck Panozzo joining his bandmates on stage for the final time of the night. With lighters and cell phones in hand, the crowd engaged in a sing-along to every word while they swayed from side to side before the song exploded into the edgier hard-driving part of the fan-favorite tune.
Chuck Panozzo, James “J.Y.” Young, Tommy Shaw, Todd Sucherman, Lawrence Gowan, Ricky Phillips, and Will Evankovich waved to the crowd and thanked them for coming. After nearly 120 minutes of music, the crowd demanded more, the whistles and cheers were relentless, and it was clear what the crowd wanted: just a few more songs before they return to their realities, whatever they may be. Styx obliged and returned for a brief two-song encore that started with their futuristic story tune, 1982’s synthpop hit “Mr. Roboto.” It was Gowan the showman who led the tune on keys as he spun around on the keyboard platform while handling lead on “Mr. Roboto” as the rest of the band added backing vocals.
Closing out the night, Tommy Shaw’s throaty voice once again had the spotlight during the first few moments of “Renegade,” most appropriate for him as he has always pushed for a heavier rock sound from Styx. This would be the final tune of the night. Shaw led the crowd into a sing-along that would include Gowan’s continued dancing and contortion movements along with heavy guitar riffs from James “J.Y.” Young and Will Evankovich. The hard-driving song reminded those who remained for the encore that although Styx has reached great success with a handful of ballads, they still remain a hard-driving rock band.
After rocking fans for 50 years, Styx remains strong. The band appears to be healthy and sounding incredible, the alternating lead vocals split between Gowan and Shaw continue to work well, and both do well in the spotlight. As the crowd shuffled out of the amphitheater, it was clear they got what they came for. Styx will be around for a while, and for those who have seen changes throughout the band’s storied career, they are in a good place. Let’s rock again soon!
Styx Setlist – The Fight of Our Lives, Blue Collar Man (Long Nights), The Grand Illusion, Lady, Crash of the Crown, Light Up, Sound the Alarm, Rockin’ the Paradise, Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man), Too Much Time on My Hands, Khedive, Lost at Sea, Come Sail Away, Encore: Mr. Roboto, Renegade
REO Speedwagon Setlist – Music Man, Take It on the Run, Keep Pushin’, Live Every Moment, Tough Guys, Can’t Fight This Feeling, Like You Do, Don’t Let Him Go, Time for Me to Fly, Back On The Road Again, Ridin’ the Storm Out, Keep On Loving You, Roll With the Changes
Loverboy Setlist – Notorious, Lucky Ones, Queen of the Broken Hearts, The Kid Is Hot Tonite, Lovin’ Every Minute of It, Hot Girls in Love, Turn Me Loose, Working for the Weekend