Styx reaching new listeners

Published 9:19 am Thursday, March 20, 2014

Styx will be making a stop in Elkhart on their North American Tour this April. (Photo by Ash Newell)

Styx will be making a stop in Elkhart on their North American Tour this April. (Photo by Ash Newell)

ELKHART—While the band Styx was formed in the early 1970s and saw its popularity quickly rise soon thereafter, the band has actually performed more live shows since 1999 than it did in all of the previous years combined.

Styx schedules roughly 100 shows per year, and their frenetic touring schedule shows no signs of abating. In fact, they are currently in the midst of their 2013-2014 North American Tour, with a stop scheduled for Elkhart’s Lerner Theater on April 3. Head East will be the opening act.

Later this summer, Styx will continue their travels, sharing the bill with Foreigner on their “Soundtrack of Summer” tour. The nearest stop on that tour will be an appearance in their hometown of Chicago on June 6.

“That’s actually really fun! It’s our big, summer blockbuster tour. We’ve gone out with Def Leppard, Yes and REO Speedwagon in the past,” explained singer and keyboardist Lawrence Gowan. “This year, we’ll also be joined by Don Felder, and he’ll be playing some of the Eagles’ big hits.”

When asked why Styx tours so much, Gowan explained that, in 1999 when he joined the band, “Styx had reached a level of cultural reference, but many people hadn’t had a chance to see them. There was a lot more of the world that wanted to see Styx play live.”

The band chose Gowan to fill the shoes of Dennis DeYoung, who had left the band a few years earlier, in part because he enjoyed touring so much.

“They were looking for someone who likes to tour, and I was doing about 140 shows a year,” Gowan explained.

In fact, Gowan loves performing live so much that, when Styx isn’t on tour, he spends his free time playing his solo material at gigs around Canada. Based in Toronto, he had enjoyed a successful solo career there for years before joining forces with Styx.

“I play solo shows in Canada during my tiny bit of time off from touring with Styx,” Gowan said.

With all that time devoted to the road, Styx has not had much of an opportunity to record new albums in the studio.

“We can’t record all of the new material that we have,” Gowan said. “We just don’t have time between tours. We just haven’t wanted to commit the time to recording new material.”

Instead, Styx has recorded a number of live albums, and they released a two-volume set, “Regeneration I and II,” that includes all of the songs that they are known for.

“We put out the two ‘Regeneration’ albums in 2010 and 2011, as well as a live DVD. There are a couple of new things on that as well,” Gowan said. “We’ve only done one album of brand new material since I’ve been with the band.”

That means that concert-goers are sure to hear most of the songs that have made Styx so popular over the years.

“We can’t play all of the favorites as well as a lot of new songs, but it makes us feel good to have such a body of work,” Gowan said. “We’re able to wedge snippets of new material into the shows, and we have to satisfy ourselves with that.”

As with any band, Styx has some songs that the hardcore fans love, even though they never received much airtime.

“We’re also doing some of the songs that weren’t as popular when they first came out,” Gowan said. “They’re basically B-sides that weren’t necessarily big radio hits, but they are very popular with the younger crowd. People are rediscovering them.”

Gowan is thrilled that the band has found a new audience in the younger generation.

“There are so many younger people who have come to appreciate Styx, and they want to see us perform live,” Gowan said. “The music industry has changed a lot in the last decade, but the one thing you can’t download is the live experience.”

Even though the band plays so many shows every year, they still keep each performance fresh.

“We always play a different set from the one we did the night before. Of course, we play all of those great standards, like ‘Come Sail Away,’ and some of the others,” Gowan said. “But, what happens in the moment arises from what the audience brings. Every night, something unique happens.”

Tickets to see Styx on April 3 at the Lerner Theater are on sale now, and they can be purchased through or by calling their box office at (574) 293-4469 or (800) 294-8223. Doors to the venue will open at 6:30 p.m., and Head East will open the show an hour later.