When: 7 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Town Toyota Center, Wenatchee
Info: 667-7847, towntoyotacenter.com
WENATCHEE — James Young caught the first glimpse of Styx’s impending fame as he stepped out of a taxi in midtown Manhattan. It was the late ’70s, the band had recently released their seventh album, “Grand Illusion.” “Come Sail Away” and “Fooling Yourself (Angry Young Man)” climbed the charts.
“Someone yelled out, ‘Styx!’ at the sight of me getting out of the cab,” Young said. “That’s when I realized, OK, people have figured who we are.’ ”
Young was one of the original members of Styx when the band formed on the south side of Chicago in 1970. Young was a Hendrix man; a guitarist influenced by Cream and other ’70s rockers. He graduated from college with a degree in aerospace engineering and searched for work as a paid musician. He found TW4, a mainstream cover band with Dennis DeYoung and Chuck and John Panozzo.
“I wanted to join a band that was working, even though they weren’t my favorite,” Young said. “Those guys were very melodic and mainstream-oriented, and I was musically cutting edge, the spirit of the times. In a crazy way, we had all the elements in place to establish ourselves.”
Styx’s breakthrough hit “Lady” made the Top 40 in 1974. A year later, Tommy Shaw joined the band and Styx signed on with A&M Records. Over the next 10 years, the band would produce six platinum records, make two Super Bowl appearances and travel the world in blockbuster tours.
Styx eventually split in the late ’90s, but reunited in the 2000’s with Shaw, Young, Todd Sucherman on drums, Lawrence Gowan on vocals and keyboard and Ricky Phillips on bass.
Go! caught up with Young in a phone interview before a Styx show in New Orleans earlier this month. He reminisced about Styx’s heyday and what it’s like touring now.
Go!: What do you think was the key to Styx’s success?
James Young: Obviously, the soil was fertile at that point in time for rock bands. Baby boomers were in their 20s and getting into true economic power. People were making money and there were jobs for everyone if you were willing to work. And we were very motivated on succeeding as a band. We had a lot of talent and we had a lot different opinions about what the band should be doing. There was a built-in creative tension from day one. But, we did some great work, recorded some great records and tirelessly toured because that’s what it takes to build a grassroots following.
Go!: How much of the concert here will be your old material?
JY: Most of it. People want to hear things that made us famous, the things that have risen to the top. We were the soundtrack for the glorious misspent youth of the ’70s and ’80s. There was a lot of hopefulness in the ’70s. We were in a golden age. There were no great wars going on, Vietnam was over. I think our shows are nostalgic in a way. I really feel that the thing we do comes from a higher place. The joy that we feel on stage, we channel that to the audience, and they reflect that joy back to us. It’s a celebration of what’s good. So much of what we see is the dark side of what goes on in the world. People need a place to go to get away from that, and that’s what I believe our concert is.
Go!: Describe Styx’s sound without Dennis DeYoung.
JY: If you listen to “Grand Illusion” or the “Pieces of Eight” album, that’s what the band sounds like. We do play “Lady.” We don’t play, “Babe” or “Mr. Roboto.” It’s skewed toward progressive rock because that’s where our heart is. That’s why we went out last year east of the Mississippi and performed the “Grand Illusion” album in its entirety. The live DVD will be out in three weeks. That’s what the band is all about right now.
Go!: Why leave the DeYoung material behind?
JY: “Babe” was a song I never wanted us to release, but majority rules. I felt that it was a hard left turn on all our rock fans. Rock fans in particular are sometimes narrow about what they like and broad in what they’ll reject if it doesn’t fit. Dennis was all about those kind of ballads. It’s more of my preference, and Tommy’s, that guides what we do now.”
Go!: Tell me about the new members in Styx.
JY: I think we’re better than the original Styx was live. Todd Sucherman was voted best rock drummer by Modern Drummer magazine (in 2009). Todd is one of the top guys in the world. We’ve got better keyboards. Lawrence is a superstar in Canada. He started out as a classical pianist who trained at the Royal Conservatory of Music. They’re incredible rock performers. Tommy and I are much more well-rounded. We weren’t bad back then, but we’re better now.
Go!: Styx has performed more live since 1999 than all the years of its career combined. Why does the band tour more now?
JY: Back then, we were making an album a year. We would spend four or five months in the studio, sometimes more, then go out and tour the rest of the year with no breaks for anything. Now, it’s so hard to get airplay on new material there’s no point in spending months in the studio cranking out another record. The best way to reach our audience is to perform live on stage.
Rachel Hansen: 664-7139