Surely one of the hottest touring packages of the summer, the Styx/REO Speedwagon co-headlining tour is well into zig zagging its way to and from large amphitheaters across the country. Last night they made a stop at Riverbend Music Center in Cincinnati. An announced crowd of over 16,000 packed the venue that’s nestled along the banks of the Ohio River, just east of the city.

Loverboy kicked off the evening with an abbreviated 8 song set to warm up the crowd. It was nice to see that the place was already packed. There weren’t many people still coming in when the opening act took the stage. That speaks to the strength of the bill for this tour. The fans, largely were there to see all three bands; and after two years of either no concerts or restricted ones, they made their presence known all evening long.

Loverboy Setlist

  1. Notorious
  2. Lucky Ones
  3. Queen of the Broken Hearts
  4. The Kid is Hot Tonite
  5. Lovin’ Every Minute of It
  6. Hot Girls in Love
  7. Turn Me Loose
  8. Working for the Weekend

I’m not sure who was in charge of the schedule but that person deserves a raise. I’ve been to many big tour packages like this one where there is a half hour to forty five minutes between bands, killing the crowd’s fervor along the way. This was not the case last night. Fifteen minutes after Loverboy finished, REO Speedwagon was on the stage playing their first song.

REO will always hold a special place in my heart. They were one of the first live rock bands that I saw as a teenager, and they were the very first ones to give me reviewer credentials as an adult for a Columbus gig circa 2011. I’ve seen them many times all over the Buckeye State and they’ve always been a great live band. Last night was no exception. In fact, it may have been the best that I’ve heard them in a live setting. I don’t know if it was due to a couple years off of the road and the rest, or perhaps something else, but Kevin Cronin was certainly at his best on lead vocals. Their rhythm section of bassist Bruce Hall and drummer Brian Hitt are always the glue holding it together, and per usual really get to strut their stuff towards the back end of the set on songs like “Back on the Road Again” and “Riding The Storm Out”. Lead guitarist Dave Amato played through solo after solo with ease and the band’s ace in the hole; Neal Doughty on the organ and keys puts the polish on the classic REO sound.

I’ve got to say, though, that it was Cronin on this night that really brought REO to the top of their game. His voice and demeanor seemed rejuvenated and refreshed after the layoff and his absolute joy at being able to play live again was apparent throughout the entirety of the set. With him and Doughty both now in their seventies, and the rest of the band close behind; they played with an urgency and passion that could be felt among the enormous crowd and that further enhanced their performance. For a band that would typically be slowing down by this point, they’re still performing at the top of their game and certainly put Styx in a difficult position to close the night.

REO Speedwagon Set List

  1. Music Man
  2. Take It on the Run
  3. Keep Pushin’
  4. Live Every Moment
  5. Tough Guys
  6. Can’t Fight This Feeling
  7. Like You Do
  8. Don’t Let Him Go
  9. Time For Me to Fly
  10. Back on the Road Again
  11. Ridin’ The Storm Out
  12. Keep On Lovin’ You
  13. Roll With the Changes

As was the case before, Styx was on stage and playing roughly fifteen minutes after REO concluded. Perfect!

If there is any band that I’ve seen more than REO or Ted Nugent, then it is definitely Styx. I’ve been fortunate to review this band at least half a dozen times and I probably saw them half a dozen more before that. In fact, this is probably the fifth or sixth tour that I’ve seen them on with REO Speedwagon, as the two Illinois based groups are no stranger to playing together.

Like always, they raced through a set full of hits with pomp, but also were able to play some new tunes as well as one from 2017’s The Mission. As the years have gone by, Styx has continued to push forward with new music, which I believe keeps the band energized and invested in their performances. Their current release, Crash of the Crown, was represented three times and has been a commercial success already and the tracks were well received live as well.

While there has always been a vocal minority pushing for a reunion of sorts with original vocalist Dennis DeYoung, it is apparent that this is Tommy Shaw and James “JY” Young’s band these days. They’ve made the right decision for the band to stick with Lawrence Gowan. Gowan’s showmanship alone is rivaled by very few and his performances of both his and DeYoung’s tracks over the years truly drown out any calls for change. There is no disrespect intended, but simply, Styx’ epic performances of the past twenty plus years are due to the addition of their current, bombastic front man. It may be Tommy and JY’s band; but make no mistake Gowan often steals the show.

With Shaw and Young on guitars and vocals, they’ve managed to keep the Styx legacy alive, while also forging into new territory and remaining a relevant rock band fifty years later. Todd Sucherman’s chops on the drums are well known and Ricky Phillips has been holding down the bottom end on the bass for almost twenty years himself. As usual, original bass player Chuck Panozzo was able to join the band for a few songs as well and the band has added a third guitar player for the band. Will Evankovich, who produced the current album, apparently got on so well with the band that they’ve added him to the group, providing another layer to their wall of sound.

Styx shows, with Gowan and Shaw out front most of the evening, are a celebration of their back catalog and last night continued that long tradition. From new songs to classics, an iconic cover and a playful rendition of “Happy Birthday“, and deep tracks in between; the Styx machine shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. 16,000 strong in the Queen City were thankful for that last night.

Styx Set List

  1. The Fight of Our Lives
  2. Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)
  3. The Grand Illusion
  4. Lady
  5. Crash of the Crown
  6. Light Up
  7. Sound the Alarm
  8. Paradise Theater
  9. Happy Birthday to You
  10. Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)
  11. Too Much Time on My Hands
  12. Khedive
  13. Rocket Man (Elton John cover)
  14. Come Sail Away

Encore

15. Mr. Roboto

16. Renegade

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