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State fairs are a magnificent place to go during summertime. Warm weather, fun carnival rides, deep fried every food you can think of, and live music happening in every corner of the place. Now I know when I think of a county fair concert venue, I always think of something small, maybe holds 1 – 2 thousand people. So, when Styx announced that they were coming back to play the fair, I was shocked as that seems like such a small venue for this legendary band. However, with the Orange County Fair we specifically have the Pacific Amphitheatre which holds an astounding 9,000 people, and Styx fans packed the house to show their love for these darlings. Accompanied by my mom, who is the reason I have such an endearing love for this band, we were ready to sail away on the river Styx.

Styx hit the stage with a new song “To Those” off their latest album Crash of the Crown, and the crowd was elated to see their favorite boys from Chicago. As the song built with a triumphant sounding melody and golden harmonies from the whole band, you could feel a wave of joy explode from the audience. Keyboardist and singer Lawrence Gowan is the embodiment of a showman with his spinning keyboard. He can dance and move around to dazzle the audience, all the while playing with perfection. Moving into the first classic Styx song of the night “Blue Collar Man (Long Nights),” the audience was ready to sing! Even with guitarist and singer Tommy Shaw’s amplified vocals, he could hardly be heard over the swell of fans singing along with him. None the less, Shaw’s guitar skills cut through and shows that he still knows how to write and play these riffs with finesse and style. Rounding off vocal duties is the most tenured member of the band, guitarist & singer James “JY” Young. With a deeper vocal range than Shaw or Gowan, Young brings some weight to the harmonies of Styx. Even taking lead on the song “Miss America.”

Though Shaw, Gowan, and Young may take the spotlight when it comes to singing their classic songs, the rest of the band can’t be ignored. With Ricky Philips providing the grooving bass lines that help get the fans booties moving and swaying in their seats. Drummer Todd Sucherman might get lost visual behind his 20+ piece drum kit, but his style and grace on the kit has earned him Drummer of the Year numerous years in a row. And Styx has been enjoying his skills work for them and bring their songs to life. Newest member Will Evankovich rounds the band off with a third guitar that helps elevate the rocking sound Styx is known for. The fans were in for a treat of two hours of Styx classics like “The Grand Illusion,” “Lady,” “Light Up,” “Crash of the Crown,” “Lorelei,” “Crystal Ball,” “Rockin’ The Paradise,” “Our Wonderful Lives,” “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man),” “Too Much Time on My Hands,” “Khedive,” and “Come Sail Away.” Though the show was not over yet, as Styx came back out for a two-song encore with fan favorites “Mr. Roboto” and “Renegade.” No matter what era of Styx you are a fan of, there was a song this night for you.

I have lost count of the number of times I have seen Styx with my mom at this point. If I had to venture a guess, this must be my 12th time seeing them with her. It has become our thing, that when Styx comes to town we go and see them. It brings both of us so much joy seeing each other’s love for this band. As I looked around the Pacific Amphitheatre, I could see the joy and love of every person in attendance. This band has meant so much to me growing up, and I can see that they meant just as much to everyone else there. As the last notes range out of the amps, and the band walked off stage, I am already waiting for the next time Styx comes to town so I can take my mom to see them again.

Matt Martinez

Editor - Orange County

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