This past Sunday night I was energized by a positive powerful injection of classic Rock n Roll!
An excellent double-bill of Cheap Trick and Styx at a good price ($44 +$6 fair admission).
I purchased my ticket in advance a few months ago during a VIP sale. I was able to get an aisle seat in the front row of seats. The only section in front of me was a small, undersold, GA “pit” area. My seat was a better value that the more expensive pit area where one would have to stand for the entire time.
I am lucky enough to have a place to stay in nearby Ocean City, Md. I made the drive from the OC area up to Harrington, DE (just over an hour) and was there in plenty of time. Parking was FREE. What a refreshing concept!
I milled around the fair for a little while, but nothing of interest there for me really so I got in line around 6pm (gates opened at 6:30).
Once let in I was pleasantly surprised how good my seat was.
I grabbed a cold Coke and surfed my IPhone while waiting for the show to start at 7:30 pm.
CheapTrick came on and started their shows the way they do so often with “Hello There”; then launched into their cover of the obscure Move song “California Man” .
The band then played a song from that same album,“Heaven Tonight”, “On Top of the World”, another Power Pop classic!
The guys then launched into an incendiary “Baby Loves to Rock” from the George Martin-produced “All Shook Up”.
As a nice surprise, the guys called out Styx guitarist Tommy Shaw for some fun on the next tune, “Ain’t That a Shame”; the great old Fats Domino hit they originally covered on “At Budokan”. Everyone onstage was grinning the whole time.
I was pleasantly surprised and thrilled to next hear and witness the song “Borderline” from their 1983 Todd Rundgren- produced album “Next Position Please”. I knew the guys had been occasionally playing it. It is one of their best lesser-know songs and that album is worth checking out.
As a nod to remind us that they still put out good new music, they charged thru “Sick Man of Europe” (a nod to one of the early names of the band) from 2009’s “the Latest”.
Rick Nielsen introduced the next song as Steven Tyler and Billy Gibbons’ favorite Cheap Trick song “Heaven Tonight”. Another slow, mesmerizing gem..
No one would ever accuse Tom Petersson of having a great voice but his lead vocal turn on “I Know What I Want” (from “Dream Police”) was pure joy as Rick and Robin huddled together to sing the backing vocals. The song simply rocks.
The often maligned #1 hit “The Flame” followed to slow the pace down a bit. Cheap Trick didn’t write the song (one of the reason it is not favored by many die-hards) but it was their biggest chart hit, they almost have to always play it.
Rick brought out his Beatles Hamer Guitar for the tunes featuring Sgt Pepper portraits of the four Beatles on it for a nice visual effect.
For the home stretch the band busted out the big guns: “I want You To Want Me” and “Surrender” (complete with the improvised “got my Styx Records out” line)
followed by the encore of “Dream Police”
and the finale featuring Nielsen strapping on his famous five-neck Hamer guitar for “Goodnight Now”.
This was the 5th time for me seeing the band and to me the best. The band played about an hour and 10 minutes. Great setlist,fun to see Tommy Shaw come out, great energy throughtout the set. They gave my soul a shot of positive energy.
Any fatigue I had was blown away by the joyful adrenalin was seeing Cheap Trick.
I even snagged a Rick pick. lol
I hope it is not the last time I see them…
The Tommy Shaw –lead version of Styx is one with an emphasis on the rocking side of the band and to give you a high energy show. If you are looking for “Babe” ,“Mr Roboto”, “The Best of Times” or “Don’t Let it End”, you’re not going to get it from this band. (All fine songs that Dennis DeYoung still plays in his show.)
At 9pm sharp the PA music cutoff and storming out came Styx playing
“the Grand Illusion”.
Tommy’s “Blue Collar Man” kept the momentum and had the place rockin.
James “JY” Young took a turn on lead vocals on one of the oldest and underrated Styx hits “Lorelei”
“Too Much Time on My Hands” always had a bit of a dance beat propelling it but the guitars kept in rock n’roll.
Dennis DeYoung’s replacement, Lawrence Gowan is a great singer and showman. He very capably ran the band thru DeYoung’s “Lady”.
Tommy Shaw pulled an acoustic and spoke to the crowd about the philosophy of making an album in the old days. There was Side A and Side B, and chances were that radio was going to play many of the cuts so you couldn’t have weak songs. “there was something called Album Oriented Radio” (the beloved AOR genre many of us still worship) Shaw said. The band then played a song from “Side B" off the Grand Illusion, “Man in the Wilderness”.
The band had been doing some deeper cuts last year and they did DeYoung’s positive affirmation off of “Pieces of Eight”, “I’m OK".
Shaw then strapped on his 12-string guitar and told the crowd of the amazing feeling of writing a song by yourself, then showing the band and recording it, and the song be known by millions still over 30 years later. With that they played a great version of “Crystal Ball”.
JY took center stage again to sing his hit album track “Miss America”.
Orignal bassist Chuck Panazzo joined the band for the first of three songs he would play with them , Shaw’s “Fooling Yourself”.
The regular set ended of course, with the epic “Come Sail Away”, a song that lives on in pop culture, movies etc.
The encore was “Rockin the Paradise” (from “Paradise Theater”) and Shaw’s “Renegade”.
Styx definitely gave us our money’s worth.
Once again I left the venue on a musical high. A great rock show really gives me an emotional lift...
I was able to walk back to my car and leave right away (no traffic jam!).
Overall I had a great night!
(all pics by me. video from various YouTube sources)