On a night when you wished the band would have taken its time getting on stage, Styx started on time.
That was unfortunate for nearly 200 people standing in line at the Casino del Sol’s AVA box office. As the line made its impossibly slow crawl to the window, the 1970s-80s band, co-headlining with fellow '80s rockers REO Speedwagon, was starting its stroll down memory lane.
If you were lucky, you navigated that line and made it into the packed amphitheater in time to hear Tommy Shaw tell the crowd, “You have to forgive us. We are kind of excited being here.”
The audience was equally excited to be there, judging from the rousing applause.
No one came expecting to see Shaw or his bandmates, including original member James Young and founding bassist Chuck Panozzo, in their 1980s glory. (Shaw, though, did make a good impression of his 1980s self with his wavy blond hair blowing in the breeze from the stage fans, leather pants and matching vest, worn without a shirt to highlight this tatted biceps.)
You come to see a 1980s rock band for the music, with the understanding that in 2012, gravity and age will distort the way they sound and look. No one faulted REO frontman Kevin Cronin for being a bit pitchy on “Take It On The Run” or losing a bit of his vocal luster on the band’s hit “Time For Me To Fly.” We kind of expected his once rough-hewn tenor would be a little less rough around the edges with patches of unevenness.
Styx and REO did not come to Tucson to try to recapture their 1980s glory; they came to do the job they have been doing over four decades — play solid rock ‘n’ roll with the same enthusiasm and genuine love they had when they started out. And they taught us a lesson: rock ‘n’ roll has no expiration date. There’s no mandatory retirement age for a rocker; just look at their contemporaries like Aerosmith, which is still out there making solid rock and roll and performing live shows that continue to amaze and confound for their energy.
Never mind that Lawrence Gowan, who joined Styx in 1999, fell flat on “Come Sail Away.” He made up for it with energetic showmanship that bordered on being too showy; we forgave him because he looked like he was having far too much fun for a man his age (55).
REO’s Cronin struggled on several of the band’s signature hits including “Keep On Loving You,” but no one will remember that when they recount last night’s show to friends today. Instead they’re going to tell their buddies how Cronin, 60, said he and the band spent a week as the house band at a Tucson bar called the Too High Club. In case you were among those who caught the band back then, Cronin dusted off a scorching rocker from those long-gone days called “Son Of A Poor Man.”
Styx and REO delivered on our expectations to experience a part of youth. (Or, in the case of the hundreds of college-age fans mostly packing the lawn section, it was a chance to hear those songs performed live by the bands that originated them.) We had no problem filling their vocal voids with our own chorus.
Fans of 1980s music have a few more chances this summer to catch one of their favorite bands from long-ago. Late 1980s heavy metal scorchers Scorpions and Tesla play a show June 17 at the AVA, 5655 W. Valencia Road. Also at the AVA: On July 11, Chicago and The Doobie Brothers share a bill. R&B legends Earth, Wind & Fire roll in July 31 followed by Duran Duran Aug. 12.
Want to go even older old school? Check out Crosby, Stills & Nash on Sept. 5 at the AVA. Tickets for that show go on sale today; click here to order.
• At Desert Diamond Casino at 1100 W. Pima Mine Road, Kool and the Gang are headlining a show June 15. Click here for tickets and details.