Dennis DeYoung knows how to put on a show. Last night was the best time I have had in a while, and being within the first ten rows was a definite bonus. I’m still waiting for my hearing to come back (it probably won’t, but who cares, it was worth it). Dennis DeYoung sounds as good today, at age 67, as he did in 1977 when The Grand Illusion was released, and I sincerely mean that. Not one single note was off key. I have seen both Ian Anderson and Kansas live within the last few years, and neither the great Anderson nor Steve Walsh can sing anywhere near what they could in the 70s. Not only was DeYoung at the top of his game, but his entire band was incredible as well. I would venture to say that they were as good or better than Styx. The lineup was Dennis DeYoung on lead vocals and keyboards, Tom Sharpe (of Mannheim Steamroller) on drums, August Zadra on lead vocals and lead guitar, Jimmy Leahey on guitar, John Blasucci on keyboards, Craig Carter on bass guitar, and Suzanne DeYoung (Dennis’ wife of 44 years!) on backing vocals. Wow. Dennis DeYoung has surrounded himself with some incredibly talented musicians, who were obviously enjoying the time of their lives on stage. I was exceedingly impressed by August Zadra’s vocal talent, for he sounds just like Tommy Shaw on songs like Renegade and Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man). Between Dennis and August, the band was able to play their most popular songs, even the ones where Dennis doesn’t sing lead.
For the show itself, the band opened with none other than The Grand Illusion, which I believe to be one of the best songs to open a concert with. I forget the order of the rest of the songs, but throughout the concert they played Lady, Babe, Lorelei, Desert Moon (which wasn’t a Styx song, but according to DeYoung “should have been”), The Best of Times, Blue Collar Man, Fooling Yourself, Mr. Roboto, Show Me the Way, Too Much Time on My Hands, Suite Madame Blue, and finishing the show with Renegade and Come Sail Away. There are a couple of other songs that are slipping my mind, but this list was the majority of the show. The band started with a romp roaring rendition of Grand Illusion, and the show was never dull. In between many of the songs, Dennis DeYoung engaged the crowd by telling stories about himself and the band, cracking jokes about getting old, and cracking jokes at the audiences expense (he’s from the Chicago area so it’s all good). The best line of the night was when he asked who had seen him in concert before, and who was seeing him for the first time. When people yelled and cheered at the latter, he responded, “Where the hell have you been, I’m 67 years old for Christ’s sake?!” That kind of humor was displayed throughout the whole night, and it was great. I’ve been to concerts where the band never says anything, and I’ve been to concerts where the band doesn’t shut up. Dennis DeYoung had the perfect balance. All the humor just goes to show that at 67 years old, DeYoung is still touring and playing because he LOVES it. And the band members all loved it too. August Zadra looked like he was having more fun than any single person should be allowed to have in Joliet Illinois when it is 20 degrees F in the middle of March. And all that fun certainly found its way to the audience- the concert was a blast.
Something must also be said of the Rialto Square Theater in Joliet, IL. It is magnificently beautiful. It was built in the 1920s as a movie house, and it has been lovingly restored to its former glory. The interior is much like the Chicago Theater (in Chicago) or the Fox Theater in Detroit, just on a smaller scale. I look forward to seeing more shows there (B.B. King at the end of May. Giddy up).
In the end, Dennis DeYoung and his band could not have been better. The one complaint I had about the show was the absence of Pieces of Eight, and the presence of Mr. Roboto (the one Styx song I could really do without). So, if you find that Dennis DeYoung is coming to a theater near you, drop everything, call the theater, buy tickets, and get ready for an awesome show. These really are The Best of Times.