Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

My favorite concert experience

Styx, 1997

On June 28, 1997, Tommy Shaw left me tickets to attend that night’s Styx/Pat Benatar concert at Radio City Music Hall, with backstage passes for after the gig.

My friend Robyn Furman and I attended the show.

We skipped backstage.

There was, after all, a fight I wanted to watch.

I thought about this all today, as the Styx classic “Lady” played as I drove. That show—that night—was one of those magical little slivers of time that keeps a guy’s memories afloat. I was 25, living in New York City, working for my dream magazine, Sports Illustrated. I’d struck up a friendship with Tommy from back when I was a Tennessean music writer, and every so often he’d ask if I wanted tickets.

Radio City was a no-brainer. I accepted the tickets.

Styx isn’t my all-time favorite band. I wouldn’t even say Styx is a Top 10 all-tme favorite band. But this was the Return to the Grand Illusion reunion tour—a reuniting of Dennis DeYoung with his estranged mates. It also served as a PR tool to promote an exceptionally good live album that had just been released.

Anyhow, the show was as good as the venue; DeYoung’s voice as strong as it had been in the mid-1970s, when Styx was moving up the club ladder in Chicago. Every sports fan loves a good comeback saga, and this—musically—was a good comeback saga. A band, slightly past its chronological prime, making another run at it, playing before a packed house inside an epic building, with thousands singing along to “Babe” and “Too Much Time on My Hands.”

In a way, I fell for the grand illusion. Watching Styx, I believed this was the type of return built to last. The guys seemed happy. Together. One. Music can do that to a spectator’s judgement. You see what you want to see. You believe the magic. You feel the love.

Alas, that was the last time I’d see the legitimate Styx lineup perform together. They pieced together a pretty meh studio album, then DeYoung left again—this time for good.

Like a bloodied ear, detached from the lobe.