His white shirt with gray highlights and white pants matched the silver hair on his head, and like a beacon for the masses at Friday night's headlining act on the BMO Harris stage at Summerfest, Dennis DeYoung showed us the way to a rocking show.
The songwriter, vocalist and keyboardist, who was once part of a band called Styx, didn't disappoint, bringing his signature voice and catalog of work to the stage.
You see, Styx, one of a few bands to have huge hits in three different decades, had a parting of the ways. I'll never be able to deliver all the details of the band's past and I won't try, but, as other members of the band travel and tour full-time on their own, Dennis DeYoung's show leads a different set of very talented musicians. Their work was showcased brilliantly onstage.
With a banner touting The Grand Reopening, it was DeYoung's "Grand Illusion" that got the crowd to their feet and got the show started. DeYoung bounced on the stage, taking rocker power stands with guitarists Jimmy Leahey and August Zarda, and hit his pulpit-like keyboard stand, preaching to us the melody of the evening.
Hits like "Lady," "Lorelei" and "Blue Collar Man" came next, and with Zarda taking lead vocals on parts old radio listeners would remember Styx's Tommy Shaw singing, the performance was not only rock solid, but flooded wonderful memories into our collective consciousness of playing the old vinyl albums, 8-tracks and cassettes back in the day.
The show had a couple of lulls in tempo, which is to be expected when you have a performer as diverse as DeYoung. He has penned ballads, rock anthems and everything in between, drawing in influences from Broadway, Mozart and even the buzzes and pops of technology.
The 1991 song "Show Me The Way" harkened back to when the U.S. entered the Gulf War, and still resonates today as our troops continue to fight overseas. "Mr. Roboto" dished up a slice of the old Rock Opera and shared the story of Kilroy, who needed a place to hide. And we heard a love song written for DeYoung's wife, who's been by his side for 42 years. "Babe" got couples in the audience embraced and singing along.
But it was "Fooling Yourself," "Suite Madame Blue" and "Best Of Times" that got the crowd back on its feet, singing along and sharing in the moment.
Instead of heading off stage and pretending they were done, only to come back for an encore, DeYoung kept the band onstage and brought the show home with "Renegade" and "Come Sail Away."
DeYoung, who's been performing for crowds since the early '70s, mentioned that being from the Chicago suburbs, he's played more shows in Wisconsin than any other state. On Friday, we Wisconsinites were treated to a two-hour set featuring composer, programmer and pianist John Blasucci on keyboards, Mannheim Steamroller drummer Tom Sharpe on percussion, Christian and gospel music master Craig Carter on bass, Suzanne DeYoung on backup vocals and Leahey and Zarda mastering the strummed
chords that gives the music of Styx its distinct sound.
For a man who's eligible for collecting Social Security, let's hope Dennis DeYoung never retires and keeps marching to the beat and leading the band like a conductor with an orchestra who will forever let us "Come Sail Away" with him.
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