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Styx at DTE, 5 Things To Know

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

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For a band that’s been around more than 45 years, Styx has been making a lot of news the past year or so.

Last year the group released “The Mission,” its first new album in nearly 14 years; It’s following with an expanded 5.1 SurroundSound edition on July 27. Guitarist Tommy Shaw, meanwhile, recently released “Sing For The Day with the Contemporary Youth Orchestra” in both audio and video formats.

But the biggest news for fans is the return of the 1983 hit “Mr. Roboto” into the setlist for the first time in 35 years. That’s put some sizzle into Styx’s summer tour, though some of the group members are a bit more ambivalent about the addition than others...

• Guitarist and co-founder James “J.Y.” Young, 68, says by phone that while bringing back “Mr. Roboto” “was never what I was after,” it was also somewhat inevitable. “We’re embracing the fan requests and fulfill a yearning request form a lot of people over the years that we’d turned a deaf ear to. We were looking for something new and a curveball to throw at the audience. I can’t say 100 percent of the people love it, but...There were young people whose first song they bought was ‘Mr. Roboto,’ and that sent them back to the previous albums. (‘Mr. Roboto’) killed the momentum of the first huge wave of Styx, it actually spawned the next generation of Styx fans. A lot of people under the age of 12 bought it, and those people are now in their 30s, perhaps even older. It just became clear from an unsophisticated poll that there were people coming to our concerts that wanted to hear that song, so we just decided to try and do it.”

• The dramatic and theatrical “Mr. Roboto” -- which was later embraced throughout pop culture, including 1999 Volkswagen Golf ad featuring actor Tony Hale -- was indeed polarizing to both Styx fans and within the band itself. It led to a seven-year split after touring to support its “Kilroy Was Here” album, which was master-minded by former frontman Dennis DeYoung. “It was an ugly time,” Young says. “Dennis is a willful man, and his blind belief in that project (‘Kilroy’) that none of the rest of us liked at all...I felt he deserved a chance to succeed or fail. It’s clear that moment in time was a huge mistake. We gave (DeYoung) enough rope to hang himself, and us, collectively, and that’s part of Styx history. It’s clear that moment in time was a huge mistake. We killed the golden goose, at least for the time being, and it’s taken a long time to resurrect it. But have, and in hindsight I think it was all part of the process.”

• Despite “Mr. Roboto,” Young cautions against reading it as a sign that the acrimony between the band and DeYoung -- who split with Styx in 1999 responded to “Mr. Roboto’s” return with a lengthy social media message proclaiming vindication -- has thawed. “I’m not mad at (DeYoung) anymore. I’ve forgiven him and I wish the man well and happiness. I just have no desire to work with him. It doesn’t open that door up for me in the least.”

• It’s been nearly 13 months since the release of “The Mission,” Styx’s first new album in 14 years, and Young says the group is still on a high from the set. “I just think it’s a gem that people who own it and have taken the time to listen to it love and can’t stop listening to it. It’s really well done. It’s got some great stuff on there and I think it’s going to be something that grows over time. People love the record, so we’ve done good.”

• Young adds that “The Mission” has also whetted Styx’s desire to make more new music sooner rather than later. “’The Mission’ has kind of inspired Tommy (Shaw) and he’s settled into writing, and I’m thinking more about trying to put my stuff back together. The reality is in the short term the project takes a lot of time and effort and we’re not making money on these records in the short-term, but as creative artists it’s something you have to keep doing because you want to get this stuff out there before we forget it. so it’s certainly in the realm of possibility that there will be a Styx record in the next 12-36 months.”

If You Go:

• Styx, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts and Tesla

• 7 p.m. Friday, July 6.

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

• Tickets start at $29.50.

• Call 313-471-7000 or visit 313Presents.com.

Web Site: www.313Presents.com

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