Styx rocks a sold-out crowd at the Vilar in Beaver Creek |

Styx rocks a sold-out crowd at the Vilar in Beaver Creek

Legendary rock band Styx performs in front of a sold-out crowd at the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek on Feb. 24, 2023.
John-Ryan Lockman/Courtesy photo

Friday night, Styx delivered the kind of high-octane energy that rock bands bring to huge stadiums. While the sound and theatrics swelled large, the Vilar Performing Arts Center’s new state-of-the-art sound system delivered crystal clear acoustics, preventing blaring loud music and allowing the musicians’ voices, which are still amazing, to shine.

As one of the most popular groups of the ’70s and early ’80s — and as the first band to earn four platinum albums in a row — it’s hard not to know at least a few songs, if not just about all, of Styx’s greatest hits. They’re one of those bands that, if you didn’t grow up in the ’70s and ’80s, might not be on your radar, but their songs most likely are.

While many classic rock bands, particularly lead vocalists, don’t quite have what it takes in terms of range or strength of voice to sound like they did in their glory days, judging by Styx’s Vilar show (and recent ones on YouTube), you’d never guess lead vocalist Tommy Shaw is pushing 70 (this September), lead guitarist James Young is 73 and uber-energetic keyboardist Lawrence Gowan is in his late 60s. Their voices are as clear and strong as ever, hitting every high note and presenting their signature layered harmonies masterfully.

Styx began the show strong with “Fight of Our Lives,” from its latest album “Crash of the Crown,” which they released in 2021 and hit number one on the Billboard Rock Album Charts. During the show, Shaw talked about how hard it was for musicians to sit around during pandemic shutdowns, so, naturally, they spent the time writing songs. “During the pandemic — you can’t just leave a bunch of musicians sitting at home doing nothing. You know, we’re just going to do what we always do. We’re gonna write some songs, and we’re gonna make an album, which is what we did,” Shaw said.

He also talked about how he wrote songs when he “had things going on and would escape into a wonderland of chords.” And, Friday night, Styx transported the appreciative fans into that wonderland of rockin’ and softer hits of the ’70s, right into the current day.

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Shaw also joked around, telling stories of how songs like “Crystal Ball” came about and how Styx originated, while Gowan wildly rocked the crowd with his antics, from spinning his rotating keyboard around and playing it backward to taking a woman’s phone from the pit, videoing himself and then seemingly licking it before handing it back to her.

Styx lead vocalist and guitarist Tommy Shaw rocks out at the Vilar Performing Arts Center on Feb. 24, 2023.
John-Ryan Lockman/Courtesy photo

The band members kept their energy up, running around the stage from left to right and playing to audience members on each side for an even more intimate experience than the interactive one they continually gave when standing center stage throughout the show. It was obvious they were thoroughly enjoying performing; you just can’t fake that level of enthusiasm and interaction.

While the show included recent songs “Sound the Alarm” and “The Outpost,” the first set highlighted older hits including “Blue Collar Man,” “Grand Illusion,” “Lady,” “Light Up,” “Crystal Ball,” “Suite Madam Blue” and “Rockin’ The Paradise.”

Before they ended the first set, Gowan pulled off an entertaining and funny introduction to all of the band members, as he “addressed” a couple in the balcony, saying, “your Honor … members of the jury, 51 years ago, a man put his name on a contract. The contract was a recording contract, signed in the city of Chicago, Illinois. May I approach the bench? He’s been the master of the Stratocaster, the cat in the hat, an absolute legend stands before you ladies and gentlemen. I say he is guilty of bringing this band to Beaver Creek on this very night … say hello to the one and only JY James Young.”

Styx started the second set with “Gone, Gone, Gone” followed by an audience-clapping rendition of “Lorelei.”

To introduce the last song Styx recorded on “Crash of the Crown,” Shaw pulled out his banjo and talked about how sitting around during the pandemic was rather “crazy-making,” so he and his wife came up with a story through a song called “Our Wonderful Lives.”

Styx then traveled back in time to “the first day, the first hour of MTV” with the groovin’ “Too Much Time on My Hands,” followed by “To Those.”

Then, they brought out 74-year-old Styx co-founder Chuck Panozzo for an excellent version of “Fooling Yourself,” in which, at the end, all the band members lined up and played. (And, unlike other bands that go off on jams, Styx remained true to the original hit sounds.)

Gowan thrilled the crowd with his rousing keyboard solo, “Khedive,” followed by a tribute to Queen and Elton John with “Somebody to Love” (which the audience belted out) and “Rocket Man,” as Elton John was the last show Gowan saw before the pandemic. Then, he segued into the (eventual) full band’s “Come Sail Away” with a duet, “Lost at Sea,” with Panozzo.

Styx kept the crowd wanting more throughout two sets of timeless classics.
John-Ryan Lockman/Courtesy photo

Styx played until 9:30 p.m. with an encore that began with “Mr. Roboto” (including the members walking around on stage like robots at times). The big finish came with the great “Renegade.” Shaw was spot on when he said, earlier in the evening:

“This is going to be a fun night. We worked up a couple things we haven’t played in a couple years now. We just wanted to do something extra here.”

Meanwhile, Gowan had commented on how thrilled they were to play “at such a beautiful theater.”

Before VPAC upgraded its sound system, it didn’t have the necessary equipment bands like Styx required. So here’s to VPAC’s 25th-anniversary enhancements, from which we’re all benefitting.

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