For starters, I don't think anyone at Rodeo Houston was expecting Styx to be so impressively spry and rockin' on Monday night.
But there they were in all their late-'70s glory, cranking out the chart-toppers with every weapon available in their hard-rock arsenal — dudes playing instruments back-to-back, a keyboard that swivels around 360 degrees and a massive drum kit with two kick drums.
Oh yeah, did I mention the drummer had a gong? Because he did.
Styx brought every weapon in the hard-rock arsenal — playing guitar back-to-back, a keyboard that swivels around and a drum kit with two kick drums.
The band climbed on stage amidst blue lights and mystical-sounding background music, which added the perfect amount of prog-rock theatrics fans like myself hoped to get. The pipe organ kicked in and it was time for "Blue Collar Man," a fist pumping minor hit that allowed guitarist and singer Tommy Shaw to show off his shockingly high vocal range.
Shaw — who joined Styx in 1976 and helped launch the act into mainstream success — was in full hair-band mode, complete with long blonde locks, tight pants and motorcycle boots. This guy is not afraid to play a guitar solo on his knees . . . not one bit.
Then it was Lawrence Gowan's chance to shine on synth and vocals with the quintessential Styx classic, "The Grand Illusion."
A Canadian rocker with a storied music career of his own, Gowan replaced founding member Dennis DeYoung in 1999 to join Shaw as one of the band's two main frontmen. Judging from his ability to play keyboards from behind his back, he seems comfortable with the limelight.
Oh yeah . . . d id I mention the drummer had a gong? Because he did.
After having the crowd (attendance was 49,546) join him in a classic rock sing-a-long session with tracks from Queen and Pink Floyd, Gowan kicked off a show-stopping performance of "Come Sail Away," a personal favorite and yet another Styx hit famously featured in Freaks and Geeks (see episode one, "The Homecoming").
I'm not ashamed to admit I had goosebumps when the band sang the "come sail away, come sail away, come sail away with me, lads" portion at the end.
The show closed with "Renegade," which might be the closest Styx gets to playing some good ol' fashioned Southern rock. The rodeo crowd absolutely ate it up, pulling out lighters for the slow parts of the song and making devil horns with their hands during the loud bits.
To say the least, it was an awesome way to end the night.