At age 13, one of the first records I ever bought was Styx's "Grand Illusion." When "Pieces of Eight" came out, I scrambled to get it. I remember lying on my back, lights out, headphones on, partaking in their sonic magic.
By the time I began attending concerts (probably just a year later) Styx had already ventured off into "Top 40 Land" and I lost interest. I've seen the band numerous times since they re-grouped in 1990. And while every show has been great, none have fully matched my initial infatuation.
For me, this DVD is pretty close to "the Holy Grail." It's the concert I was imagining in the dark all those years ago.
Anyone familiar with these albums already knows that the set list is nothing less than perfect. In this performance, Styx is musically tight and with a majestic sound, looking healthy and happy. Each musician excels, and the Styx signature harmonies are out in force. Great care has been taken to fine-tune everything, even Styx mainstays (for example, "Miss America" gets back her usually-absent instrumental intro).
Tommy Shaw is like some miracle of nature, singing and playing with as much prowess as ever. ("Sing For the Day" is out of this world!)
Drummer extraordinaire, Todd Sucherman, is exciting like fireworks. I read in an interview that his affection for these albums in his youth made this project a particular labor of love. It shows. And his technical flair adds a magic all its own.
I wasn't expecting it, but some of the best sounding numbers turn out to be "I'm Okay," "Queen of Spades" and "Pieces of Eight," all penned and originally sung by Dennis DeYoung. Keyboardist/vocalist Lawence Gowan really nails them. And I'm happy to report, the keyboard "voices," which I understand can be tough to replicate with equipment 30 years after-the-fact, come pretty darn close to the original tones.
The only weakness I notice in the performance is a strain in James Young's voice on a couple of songs (although, not all of them). It must have been a bad night, as he's usually outstanding.
Overall, I don't think the band has ever sounded better. These guys are total pros. And their joy and enthusiasm is infectious.
The video itself is pristine and skillfully edited. You definitely feel up-close and catching special moments. The audio has been masterfully mixed by the band and very-long-time Styx engineer, Gary Loizzo.
[On a side note, the Dolby Digital track has a lot more low-end "punch" than the lossless dts-HD track... at least on my system. The sound on the dts-HD is more discreet and clear. But for my listening enjoyment, the powerhouse drum and bass sound on the Dolby Digital track is "the ticket."]
Included on the disc is a documentary where members of the Styx crew walk us through the staging and execution of the show. As a hobby guitarist who has spent some time with bands, I found it pretty interesting. My kids did as well.
If you like 1977-78 era Styx, simply put, this DVD ROCKS! For fans that refuse to enjoy Styx sans Dennis DeYoung, (if, for nothing else, the principle of it), this obviously is not going to be their cup of tea. (To each his own.) But for everyone else, I can say without hesitation,
"Pay the price, get your tickets for the show!"
... and play it LOUD!