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Styx at Sound Board, 5 Things to Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

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Styx may be named after the river to Hell, but the veteran rock group has been in a heavenly experience for fans since "Lady" first hit in 1972.

The sextet has an abundance of laurels to rest on, including six platinum or better albums and 16 Top 40 singles. Singer-keyboardist Lawrence Gowan is in his 20th year in place of co-founder Dennis DeYoung, and Styx remains a dependable touring machine that finds new ways to present its 47-year repertoire.

But after 2017's "The Mission" the group has more than just a rich past and is looking forward to making sure its legacy is hardly just a grand illusion, if you will...

• After releasing "The Mission," its first album in two years, during 2017, Styx has been at work on a follow-up, according to guitarist Tommy Show. "We’re pretty far along on it," Shaw, 65, reports by phone. "When these things start to get a life of their own and get momentum you stick with it, and that's what's happening again. We're just a few songs away from taking it to the next step and...recording it. It's a process you have to go through." "The Mission" producer Will Evankovich is again working with the band and co-writing songs.

• While "The Mission" has a sci-fi, space travel narrative, Shaw predicts the new album's theme will be a bit looser. "It might be like when we released 'The Grand Illusion' and 'Pieces of Eight' back in the 70s. One seemed like a concept album and one kinda seemed like it, but they were more like time capsules of what we were all going through at that time. This one is more like that, just observing life in 2019. We're not really an activist band or political, but I think that thing that we are good at is the human condition. And you don't have to take sides for that."

• Styx made headlines last year by performing its 1983 hit "Mr. Roboto" again for the first time in 35 years. Shaw reports that the song has "become a standard now. We do it every night" even though he also acknowledges that "there's a lot of stigma attached to it for us. The band just had a bad time making that album ("Kilroy Was Here"). And (the recording) sounds kind of dated; It's kind of techno, and we're not really a techno band. One day I went looking Spotify to see if anyone's covered 'Mr. Roboto' and I found a version by a band called the Protomen that stuck to the original arrangement but made it more like a rock song. So I played it for everybody else and they were like, 'We could do it like this!' So we're actually covering a cover of 'Mr. Roboto.'"

• Shaw adds that Styx remains open to revisiting songs from throughout its history as well. "We're always looking at songs from the old albums, like 'Heavy Metal Poisoning.' We're always looking for new ones to play. Our song book and our set list are a lot of fun to put together."

• Shaw acknowledges that a Styx biopic would be interesting, but the group so far has not been attracted to any of the stage musicals that have been broached. "We've turned down...I couldn't tell you how many people have submitted an idea for a play with all these songs. If we were ever going to do that we would do it ourselves so we could guide it and direct it. But it's not something we've ever felt like pursuing because so many people have tried and failed on Broadway, and we would rather be doing what we usually do."

Styx performs at 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 8, at Sound Board in the Motor City Casino Hotel, 2901 Grand River Ave., Detroit. $69-$82. 313-309-4700 or visit soundboarddetroit.com.

Web Site: www.soundboarddetroit.com

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