PHOTOS and review of Styx, Yes at Red Rocks in Colorado - Reverb

Live review: Styx, Yes @ Red Rocks Amphitheatre

Nostalgia night came to Red Rocks Tuesday, as two bands whose heydays ended in the mid-’80s brought an unlikely tour to Colorado.

On the surface of it, Yes and Styx would seem to have little in common. The former is known mainly for long, instrumentally-complex pieces with the vocals of Jon Anderson soaring on top (the band’s brief foray into short, pop-oriented songs on “90125” notwithstanding), while the latter wrote some of the pioneering power ballads, and can get peoples’ fists and lighters in the air like nothing else.

Styx lead guitarist Tommy Shaw did try to tie the two together at one point, noting that both bands were “album-oriented rock, prog rock and good music,” though Styx’s ties to prog rock are superficial at best. One commonality, however (aside from both band’s exceptional harmonies), is that both are touring without several original members, including their original lead singers, Yes’ Jon Anderson and Styx’s Dennis DeYoung. Both bands have opted for the “Rock Star” approach, finding singers who sound eerily similar to the one’s they have replaced; Lawrence Gowan for Styx and Benoit David for Yes. Gowan has been singing with Styx since 1999, while David joined Yes in 2008, having sung in a Yes tribute band called Close to the Edge.

Yes concentrated mostly on what could be called the “classic” Yes period. If the band occasionally seemed a little off in sections of its long songs, with the music seeming a little out of time and disjointed, Howe can still pull it together like no one else. His guitar solo in “Yours is No Disgrace” dazzled, while bassist Chris Squire anchored “Heart of the Sunrise” with blasts of bombast. The crowd seemed to not know what to make of the typical 10-minute songs, and it was sad that the best reception of the night came for the power pop ballad “Owner of a Lonely Heart.”

Styx came on to some prerecorded power rock and immediately launched into “Blue Collar Man (Long Nights).” Without DeYoung’s overly-extensive theatrics and softer stylings, Shaw and guitarist James Young are free to drive Styx in a more hard-edged sound, and both looked like they were having a blast all night long. Shaw, 57, still has that high-register voice that drove Styx’s better material in the band’s heyday. The harmonies on “Grand Illusion” seemed a little lower than the album version, no doubt the attrition of age.

Much of Styx’s set was dominated by Shaw hits like “Too Much Time on My Hands” and the brilliant “Crystal Ball.” Gowan stepped up with a spot-on take on “Lady” and “Suite Madam Blue,” while Shaw and Young showed off their guitar talents on a twining guitar solo on “Man in the Wilderness.”

Original bassist Chuck Panozzo also made a couple of appearances, including on Shaw’s teen angst anthem “Fooling Yourself” and the anthem “Come Sail Away.”

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Candace Horgan is a Denver freelance writer/photographer and regular contributor to Reverb. When not writing and shooting, she plays guitar and violin in Denver band Black Postcards.

John Leyba is a Denver Post photojournalist and regular contributor to Reverb.

  • Olias of Sunhillow

    While it’s true that many of the tempos have been slowed down, and some of the transitions were not particularly smooth, YES still delivered last night. It was a much better show than the 2009 gig at the Paramount. It definitely sucked to see everyone sitting and chatting though And You And I, one of rock’s best tracks, only to get up and dance for the trite hit Owner. It’s a summer show, so I guess you’re never that surprised.

    Styx, while clearly a well-oiled touring machine, has stripped away what little complexity their songs originally had. As a result, their songs are all now straight-ahead rockers, which is fine if you like that. I got bored and left after Suite Madame Blue.

  • Jeff

    Being short on $ and having read negative comments about Yes’ performances on this tour, comments which turned out to be unfounded, I bought a general admission seat and was reminded of just how bad the acoustics at Red Rocks are. If you don’t have a seat in the first 20 rows, it’s hardly worth going to a concert there. In row 50-something, we were victimized by the fact that high frequencies carry better than low frequencies, with the result that if neither band had included a bass player I wouldn’t have noticed (I have had my hear checked fairly recently, and it is well above average). Unfortunately, Yes uses their bass player to do a lot more than just to play the root notes of chords, so the loss of the bass parts was critical. I probably will never go to another concert at Red Rocks. I’ll leave it to people who go as an excuse to get outdoors and really don’t care that much about the music.

  • Donnner

    I agree with the croud chatter.Thought it was as bad as a Rockies game. I  however, was grooving to Yes. My 12 th Yes show and “And You and I” still moves me. Starship Trooper was very fitting for the greatest outdoor venue. I just laugh at all the negative reviews these days. Back in the 70’s these bands carved the Rock World.
    Remember, Rock is an Attitude, Not an Age!

    I think we need more age! Yes still cooks!

    I was the one on my feet with the big smile all night!

  • Francie

    Candace, I manage Shane Alexander and would like to get copies of the photos on this page.  I am not sure if you took them but they are amazing.

  • ESS

    Great show by Styx, as usual. A huge thank-you to Styx for lifting my spirits after what has been a stressful year! We were lucky enough to be in Row 9, so no problem with acoustics. Tommy Shaw sounds better today than he did 30 years ago. I have never been a huge Yes fan, but I really enjoyed their instrumentals. My apologies to Yes if I appeared to be bored/nodding off–I was anticipating a late night with Styx as the closing act. It was getting close to my bedtime.  That’s what happens to old bags in their 50s . . . .

  • Mpatmas

    i saw the show last night in eagle idaho. what a study in contrast. YES with their insanely complex and dazzlingly beautiful music, impossible scales, key changes, rhythm changes and syncopation dazzled those in the audience with PhD in music theory or biochemsistry. but it STYX with their 3 power chord progressions, A minor pentatonic riffs and lots of gimmicks that got the audience going. advanced calculus vs. algebra 1. take your pick.

    • Pd

      For all the negative comments about Styx playing simple music did anyone notice how Todd Sucherman (Styx’s drummer) wiped Alan White off the stage! Alan (all of Yes other than Benoit) looked extremely old. It is funny how Yes’s music is so sophisticated with such simple live drumming—Howe is still great though. Sucherman = calculus. White = algebra. The other fact that went right over your heads is that Styx has three great lead singers. Not many band boast more than one.

  • Mpatmas

    i came to the conclusion that pairing YES and STYX is a mistake. you need to have an IQ of at least 140 to get what YES is doing. STYX on the other hand…  so why does the STYX keyboard player stand like he is having a prostate exam?

  • Tommynowlin5

    I saw styx and yes at the greek , styx amazing live better than ever, tommy shaw fantastic,great show, stole the show fron YES, i love yes, always have always will. yes had problems, volume,timeing, smoth transitions ,tempo-some songs were so slow-dragging they sounded strange. jon anderson was missed,the singer they had could not hit the soaring high notes. rick wakeman was also missed, his son cannot fill his fathers shoes, to bad , a little sad, YES is the single greatest technical/progressive/classical-hard rock band of all time,any of us have ever seen or herd,YES is in a catigory by them self ,thank god for YES.  their music has always been like a religous experince for me. they are still and always will be the giants of rock/the greatest.       T.Nowlin LA. CA.     ps.steve howe amazing playing three insturments at the same time , the professor, phd in guitar playing what a Master.

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