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Styx at DTE, 5 Things To Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

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You can say Styx is on a mission this year.

“THE Mission,” to be more accurate.

Last month the veteran rock troupe released its first new studio album in 14 years. Conceived by singer-guitarist Tommy Shaw, “The Mission” is a concept album about a manned flight mission to Mars. It snagged the group its highest Billboard 200 debut since 1983 and has infused a bit of fresh energy into its annual summer road trip, this time with REO Speedwagon and former Eagles member Don Felder as part of the package...

• Shaw, 63, conceived and wrote “the Mission” with Will Evankovich, a cohort from the Shaw Blades band, and he kept the project “kind of secretive” during its early stages. “We kinda snuck around for a long time,” Shaw says by phone “The idea of me coming to everybody else and saying, ‘Look, Will and I have an idea for us to do an album about a mission to Mars’ wasn’t something I could confidently go in and talk about. I think everybody might have been overhearing little playbacks and this and that and the other and they were getting curious. I’m sure there were some discussions on the bus when I wasn’t around. There finally came a point where it was, ‘Let’s bring everybody in.’”

• Shaw adds that he’s confident a concept album will have no problem getting the attention of Styx fans worldwide. “As soon as we got to thinking about a Styx album, what’s your favorite era of Styx? To me it’s ‘The Grand Illusion,’ ‘Pieces Of Eight.’ That was just the prime. Everybody was in the prime,” Shaw explains. “So the idea was, ‘Let’s make this record (‘The Mission’)...make sure it sounds like Styx, the Styx that everybody grew up with, and so that became the margins for it. It seems like the path of least resistance, even for us, is to sound like Styx.”

• Styx was aware of the long gap between albums, according to Shaw. “It feels likea little while, especially how the industry of making and releasing albums has changed,” he says. “The last time we released a new studio album was 2003 and there was still kind of some radio out there and they would put you on the ‘Today’ show...The one thing I love about it now is there’s so much more control that you have over the messing and getting it out there. You can present it and get it in front of people’s eyes and ears and give them a chance to make up their own minds. I like that.”

• This year also marks the 40th anniversary of Styx’s landmark, triple-platinum “The Grand Illusion” album, which guitarist James J.Y. Young also fired up the band to put out something new. “We thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we had a record that had some resonance with our heyday but nonetheless was reflective of our current lineup and its capabilities to perhaps go beyond what we did then,” Young, 67, notes. “And here we are.”

• It’s also the 45th anniversary of Styx’s self-titled debut album, though the group is not particularly vested in celebrating that particular mark. “The thing is we have anniversaries about every other week for something,” Shaw says. “So, no, we haven’t thought about it yet. I don’t keep up with that sort of thing because there’s so much stuff going on in the right now and next week. If I hadn’t read about the anniversary it would’ve never crossed my mind.”

If You Go

• United We Rock Tour with Styx, REO Speedwagon and Don Felder

• 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 25.

• DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road east of I-75, Independence Township.

• Tickets are $29.50-$99.50 pavilion, $27.50 lawn with an $84 lawn four-pack.

• Call 248-377-0100 or visit palacenet.com.

Web Site: www.palacenet.com

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