The Hippo


May 28, 2020








 Dennis DeYoung – The Grand Illusion 

40th Anniversary Album Tour
When: Saturday, May 19, 8 p.m. 
Where: Capitol Center for the Arts, 44 S. Main St., Concord
Tickets: $39.50 – $79.50 at

Grand Illusion redux
Voice of Styx reprises classic album in Concord


 By Michael Witthaus
Though a band called Styx is on tour this summer, it’s not going to be the same without Dennis DeYoung, who wrote and sang seven of their eight Top Ten hits. DeYoung continues to play  “Blue Collar Man,” “Babe,” “Best of Times” and other Styx favorites for fans, though, and on Saturday, May 19, he’ll mark the 40th anniversary of their breakout album The Grand Illusion by performing it from start to finish at Concord’s Capitol Center for the Arts, along with all the hits that followed.
Buoyed by the iconic “Come Sail Away,” The Grand Illusion established Styx  in the rock world. It was the first of  four consecutive  triple platinum albums. The next, Kilroy Was Here,  sold 2.5 million copies. It even helped revive “Lady,” an all but forgotten song from their 1973 debut, and boosted sales of the follow-up, Equinox. 
That it took  three tries to reach  wide recognition still rankles DeYoung. He stated in a recent interview that  other groups were labeled by critics as Styx forebears, despite actually emerging years after them. 
“I never heard Queen, Kansas, Journey, Foreigner until 1975,” he said, “but many people who wrote about music considered Styx kind of like imitators of those bands, when we really weren’t. If you listen to our first album in ‘72, there’s that rock, pop, proggy thing with those high whiny vocals. There is a combination of lots of elements, and it was there in the very beginning.”
With The Grand Illusion, DeYoung knew a big break was coming — or else. It was the band’s second effort with new label A&M, and it contained what he considered to be a surefire single. 
“We had an album listening party,” he said. “At the end of it, my very best friend, Tom Short, was standing next to me [and] ‘Come Sail Away’ finished Side 1. I turned to him and said, ‘If that doesn’t do it — I can’t … I’m going to go back to being a teacher, because what am I supposed to do?’ Our career was a litany of record company mistakes.”
It’s still DeYoung’s favorite Styx record. 
“Probably the most perfect album we ever made,” he said.
It was a concept record dealing with false media messiahs, a theme that’s very relevant in today’s celebrity age. “I told everybody in that album, ‘deep inside we’re all the same.’  We’re an illusion,” DeYoung said, quoting from the title track. “Don’t be fooled by the radio, TV or the  magazines; they show you photographs which are images of how your life should be; but they’re just someone else’s fantasies. That is what is was, and that is what it is and always will be. You look at Facebook — that’s an illusion;  you know it and I know it.”
DeYoung’s also wary of those who believe music should seek to change the world.
“Rock and roll wasn’t about politics,” he said. “The people who invented it — Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Elvis — wanted to buy a Cadillac. It wasn’t about the smarty pants in the late ’60s who all got together and thought that this music should have some higher purpose that moves the culture, takes social issues and turns them into revolution. The revolution never happened.  I was there, but I sure don’t remember it.”
Styx got big just as punk happened and had the misfortune of touring England just as critics were burying bands like them. 
“They were calling us dinosaurs, and I said, ‘Jesus, Mary and Joseph; we just got here! What the hell?’” 
Lumping them with Genesis and ELP was also unfair, he said. 
“We were never a prog band, but we had proggy ideas. We just stole from everybody. … Styx, more than anything else, was a hybrid.  If you took ‘Mr. Roboto’ and ‘Babe’ and ‘Renegade,’ and  played them for a stranger, they wouldn’t even think it was the same band.”
Asked if  a reunion with Styx co-founders Tommy Shaw, James Young and Chuck Panozzo might ever happen, DeYoung said the answer lies with his ex-mates, who threw cold water on the idea in a recent sit-down with Dan Rather.
“In 1999, there was an ultimatum: Show up for the tour or we’re replacing you. I was ill, I still suffer from what I had,” he said. “I said from the beginning, I want to be in the band, I never wanted to leave ... ever. It’s been in Tommy and James’s hands, and it still is”
DeYoung said he has asked to reunite for a tour.
“Last year, I said we should do one final  tour. ... It is what the fans really want. It’s not just about Styx, but the romantic notion that people bring about their love to particular bands. It’s real and it applies to us as well as to any band, and I’m quite capable of doing it. In fact, I am the guy that does it.” 

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