Dennis DeYoung Hits All The Right Notes in Sioux Falls Saturday With The Symphony
Styx founder Dennis DeYoung brought his band to Sioux Falls Saturday night to perform with the South Dakota Symphony at the Washington Pavilion, and put on one hell of a show.
It had been probably 35 years since I’d seen DeYoung perform. I’m pretty sure it was the ‘Pieces of Eight’ tour that brought them to the Minnesota State Fair. By the time I went to see the band again, he and his former bandmates had gone through a messy split and it’s been a really good show, but I was looking forward to hearing DeYoung and he definitely didn’t disappoint!
Backed by the 40+ members of the South Dakota Symphony, DeYoung’s solo band (and a really good band at that, but we’ll get to that in a minute) went through a large number of Styx hits from the 70s and 80s. From ‘The Grand Illusion’, to ‘Lady’ to ‘Come Sail Away’, to ‘Mr. Roboto’ to ‘Babe’ (which he dedicates to his wife of 44 years, Susanne, who sings backup with the band), DeYoung was as theatrical as I remember and the vocals were fantastic.
The 67-year old DeYoung has assembled a really good band of musicians including a second keyboard player (DeYoung also plays keys on several songs), drummer, a bass player that not only keeps the low end musically, but provides some high end background vocals. And he has two smokin’ guitar players in Jimmy Leahey and August Zadra.
Zadra has been with DeYoung since 2010 as lead guitarist and vocalist after DeYoung’s son found Zadra on YouTube. Zadra actually sings lead on a couple of the more rocking Styx songs from the era that DeYoung didn’t sing like ‘Crystal Ball’, ‘Renegade’ and ‘Blue Collar Man’. After the first song Zadra sang, I turned to my friend and joked that they had found him in a Styx tribute band somewhere because he absolutely nailed the vocals. I got online after the show and it turns out I was right. DeYoung’s son had been on YouTube and found a couple of Zadra’s videos. He was brought in to audition and was given the job not because of his guitar playing (and he is a really good guitar player!) but because of his singing. It really added a lot to the show to be able to hear those songs as well.
The highlight of the show for me was a song that DeYoung said was really the song that was the inspiration for having his band do shows with a full symphony orchestra behind them (which they’ve done off and on since 2000) and that was ‘Suite Madame Blue’. WOW! To hear 50 musicians bring that song to life on the stage at the Pavilion was a real treat.
The show had a few ‘bumps’ that didn’t effect the performers, but it did the audience. There are still some ‘issues’ to fix as far as getting better sound into the first few rows. The sound system is amazing when you’re back in the audience, but for some reason, the couple of shows I’ve been fortunate to see from very close, the sound doesn’t get in there and at times the fantastic guitar work of Zadra and Leahey was lost in the mix.
And the volunteer ushers at the shows need to maybe lighten up a little bit at rock shows. I know I (and several others) were waved off by ushers if we were enjoying the show a little bit too much, actually wanting to (gasp!) STAND during a really good song or (Oh My Goodness!) take a picture without flash on our cell phones!
It’s a reputation that really needs to be addressed not with the patrons but with the staff as I see it happen at nearly every show I attend, which really dampens the mood of the audience (and the performer!) To a person, every musician I have ever talked to, says they feed off the audience. If they’re are sitting in their seats, not clapping, singing along, standing, enjoying themselves, it tends to be a down show. I’ve seen amazing shows from a band performing for an appreciative audience of 25 and terrible shows from musicians forced to perform for a quiet crowd of 1000. Rant over.
The upside? Thank you to the South Dakota Symphony and the evening’s sponsor, Midcontinent Communications, for bringing in a real fun show last night. As I keep saying, the city is growing and with it, the musical diversity and choices. We can keep them coming as long as we support them.