On Stage: STYX celebrates 50 years with show at Xcite Center

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times


STYX is not unfamiliar with gold. The band has reached golden status or better on nine of its albums. Now, STYX is touring to celebrate its golden anniversary.

The tour, which is also a support tour for its most recent album, “Crash of the Crown,” visits the area on May 5 for a show at the Xcite Center at Parx Casino (2999 Street Road, Bensalem, https://parxcasino.com)

Legendary and multi-Platinum rockers STYX — Tommy Shaw (vocals, guitars), James “JY” Young (vocals, guitars), Lawrence Gowan (vocals, keyboards), Todd Sucherman (drums) and Ricky Phillips (bass), along with the occasional surprise appearance by original bassist Chuck Panozzo– are rested, healthy, and back on the road.

Shaw, Panozzo and Young have been with the band since its early days in Chicago at the start of the 1970s while Gowan and Sucherman joined the group prior to the turn of the century. Phillips is the “new” member having joined 20 years ago in 2003.

Finally, they have a new album to promote along the way — their highly anticipated 17th album, “Crash of the Crown.” Shortly before the album came out, STYX released an EP, “The Same Stardust” as part of Record Store Day (June 12, 2021).

If you’re a classic rock fan and you have a preference for bands that rock hard and put out a 100 per cent effort every time they step onstage, then you need to make the short drive to Bensalem this weekend.

STYX’s long list of hit singles includes “Lady,” “Come Sail Away,” “Babe,” “The Best of Times,” “Too Much Time on My Hands,” “Show Me the Way,” “Renegade,” “Boat on the River” and, of course, “Mr. Roboto.” “Babe” reached Number 1 in the charts while “Show Me the Way,” “Mr. Roboto” and “The Best of Times” topped out at Number 3.

“I’ve been there since the beginning,” said Young, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. “February 22, 1972 – I signed 50 years ago.

“Every musician dreams of having a recording contract. We got together in Chicago at the start of the 70s. There were quite a few good bands in Chicago –The Shadows of Knight, the Cryin’ Shames, the Buckinghams.

“Bill Traut signed us to Wooden Nickel Records for a four-album deal. Then, we went to A&M. Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss (A&M owners) loved the band and really got behind us.

The band’s first album for A&M was “Equinox” in 1975. The group went on to record seven more albums for the Los Angeles based label ending with “Edge of the Century” in 1990.

STYX followed with Brave New World in 1999 on CMC International, “Cyclorama” in 2023 on Sanctuary Records, and “Big Bang Theory” in 2005 on New Door Records. 2017’s “The Mission” and “Crash of the Crown” were both released via Universal Music Enterprises.

Their sophomore album “Styx II” (1973) broke through with their first radio hit, the power ballad “Lady.”

The song began to earn some radio time, first on WLS in Chicago in 1974 and then nationwide. In the spring of 1975, nearly two years after the album had been released, “Lady” broke into the Top 10 in the U.S., and “Styx II’ went gold soon after. “Lady” is considered by many classic rock critics as being the first power ballad.

“‘Lady’ was our first hit single,” said Young. “It was poorly promoted in 1973 when we put it out. Later, it was Top 10 in every major city in the states.

“Then, ‘The Grand Illusion’ album sold seven million copies in 1977. A few years later, our ‘Paradise Theatre’ album went to Number 1 in the states.”

Both albums went triple-platinum – as did “Pieces of Eight” in 1978 and “Cornerstone” in 1979.

“The fact that we’re still relevant is a surprise to me,” said Young. “The pedigree of the band has always been there. We kept climbing the ladder of success.”

At each tour stop, as they have been in the past years, Rock to the Rescue—spearheaded by Tommy Shaw’s daughter, Hannah and is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization founded by the band, whose mission is to build strong, healthy communities through the support of grassroots organizations across the country—will continue to research local nonprofit organizations and pick one to see if they are interested in volunteering to help the band sell $10 tickets for a drawing to win a signed STYX guitar at the shows. They give these organizations a percentage of the sales as their way of supporting their cause and thanking them for supporting the band’s cause.

Rock to the Rescue originally started in 2001 as a result of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and is the brainchild of STYX singer/guitarist Tommy Shaw and REO Speedwagon singer/keyboardist/guitarist Kevin Cronin.  The two musicians brought together bands and artists such as Bad Company, Journey, Survivor, Kansas, Lynyrd Skynyrd and many others to be part of “Volunteers For America” concert events in Dallas and Atlanta that ultimately raised over $775,000 for victims of 9/11, as well as the Port Authority police department in New York City.

In 2014, Rock To The Rescue raised $10,000 for the Philadelphia Fire Department Local #22 Widows Fund at the “Soundtrack of Summer” show (with Foreigner and former Eagles guitarist Don Felder) in Camden, NJ on July 3, as a thank you to the local fire department for cooling down STYX’s burning crew bus the day before.  And in 2013, Rock To The Rescue hosted a sold-out concert with STYX, REO Speedwagon, Ted Nugent, Survivor, Richard Marx and Larry The Cable Guy, in Bloomington, IL at the U.S. Cellular Coliseum that raised $450,000 for victims of the horrible storms in Illinois.  Also in 2013, Rock To The Rescue presented the Boston One Fund with a check for $108,000 for victims of the Boston marathon bombings as a result of funds raised during the “The Midwest Rock ‘N Roll Express” tour with STYX, REO Speedwagon and Ted Nugent.

Many of STYX’ band contemporaries that are still around are touring with set lists based almost exclusively on their classic hits. Few even try to stay contemporary. Even fewer attempt to make new music.

Obviously, STYX is different. Just listen to “Crash of the Crown” and you’ll understand.

Video link for STYX – https://youtu.be/2FcurI8WOuY.

The show at the Xcite Center on May 5 will start at 8 p.m.

Ticket prices start at $76.

E.J. Simpson

You may not recognize the name E.J. Simpson, but, if you’ve seen concerts at clubs around the Philly area anytime over the last two decades, there’s a good chance that you’ve heard him play.

Based in Philadelphia, Simpson is a multi-instrumentalist who fronts his all original You Purple Virgin band. He also performs his unique, hilarious and inspired solo interpretation of the beloved of “Jesus Christ Superstar” every spring in Philadelphia — and all over the United States the rest of the year.

Simpson has also been a member of Beru Revue, Boris Garcia, The Goats and Maggi, Pierce and E.J. Additionally, he leads a number of tribute performances including David Bowie, (4lads’ Insane), Grateful Dead, (No Fire on The Mountain), Sergeant Pepper (in full costume regalia), Johnny Cash Night, The Monkees and more.

While known mostly for his work on bass guitar, Simpson also sings and plays guitar, mandolin, mandola, ukulele, bandurria, gong, organ, piano, and percussion. He also plies his trade as a music teacher at Danny’s Guitar Shop in Narberth.

Simpson’s new project is his third solo LP, “You Purple Virgin Presents Fabulous Fantasy,” which will officially be released on May 5. Simpson released his first album, “Heart Like a Tiny Jewel,” in 2009 and followed with his sophomore album, “Got a Circle to Circle” in 2016.

May 5 is a special day – in addition to being Cinco de Mayo.

On May 5, Simpson, along with most of the players who contributed to the album, will perform “You Purple Virgin A Fabulous Fantasy” in its entirety (with some embellishments) for the first time.

The “You Purple Virgin A Fabulous Fantasy Celebration” will get underway at 8 p.m. at The Fallser Club (3721 Midvale Avenue, Philadelphia, www.ejsimpsonmusic.com).

“We’re going to play all the songs from the album – with embellishments,” said Simpson, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon from his home in Narberth.

“It’s going to be available in all formats – CD, vinyl and digital.

The “Purple Virgin” guitar is unique (in the true meaning of the word). “You Purple Virgin” is named for Simpson’s one-of-a-kind Modulus Graphite purple bass which was created after the songwriter spent a year in San Francisco working in MG’s headquarters and took his newfound knowledge to build the instrument of his dreams.

“I had moved to the San Francisco Bay area and was working for Modulus Graphite in 1989,” said Simpson. “I made this purple five-string bass with custom neck work. It is unique.”

The instrument made its debut on the new album – an album that wasn’t rushed.

“I broke ground on the project five years ago,” said Simpson. “We finally pressed it in November. I recorded it in Studio 4 in Conshohocken with Phil Nicolo. I also did some recording with Adrian Harpham at his studio, A’s Cambridge Sound.

“When we broke ground, four of us did the bulk of the sessions – Greg Davis on guitar, Wally Smith on organ, Adrian on drums and me on bass.

“We had other great musicians from around the area come in and do some work on the recording – 12 altogether and most of them will be at the show on Friday.”

“You Purple Virgin Presents Fabulous Fantasy” features 10 original psychedelic and theatrical rock songs. Additional performers on the album were Saantis Davis (percussion) Gdead (tabla), Rachel Haimovich (vocals), Alison Hilley (vocals), Dena Miranda (vocals), Jade Elle Lebrandt (vocals), Kevin Hanson (guitars), David Fishkin (saxophone, flute), Koof Ibi (flugelhorn), Geoff Simpson (harmony, rhythm guitar), Owen Osborne (drums), Adam Flicker (organ), Wendy Romig (chanting), Vrindavaneswari (flute), Erf (chanting), Bhakta Ed Fitzpatrick (kartals), and Kristin Jewell (chanting).

Simpson actually provided a live preview of the album on Record Store Day (April 22) at Shady Dog Records in Berwyn.

Growing up in Narberth, Simpson’s music tastes when he was younger were helped along by the owners of Shady Dog Records, a shop in Narberth that sold used and new albums and CDs and specialized in rare discs.

Shady Dog Records, which is one of the best record stores in the Philadelphia area, is still going strong – but not in Narberth. Years ago, the shop remained on the Main Line and moved west to Berwyn. The owners are still turning on people to new music at their current location at 638 Lancaster Avenue (610-644-1160) and online (shadydogrecords.tumblr.com).

Last week, Simpson performed his annual, solo tribute to Andrew Lloyd Weber’s beloved, “Jesus Christ Superstar,” at Old Swedes Church. Ironically, it was a week before the 50th Anniversary National Tour of “Jesus Christ Superstar” touched down in Philly for a run at the Miller Theater as part of Kimmel Cultural Campus’ Broadway Series.

“I’ve been doing the ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ shows for 17 years,” said Simpson. “I’ve toured with it from Anchorage, Alaska to Florida and from Venice, California to Maine. It’s ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ through the prism of E.J. Simpson.”

Up next for Simpson will be the follow-up album to “Fabulous Fantasy,” a long awaited “December” themed album as well as his covers release and an adaptation of a Mark Twain piece with orchestration and ballet.

Video link for E.J. Simpson – https://youtu.be/eR8f8OLbRf4.

The show at the Fallser Club will start at 8 p.m. on May 5.

Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door.

“Jesus Christ Superstar” is visiting Philadelphia for a six-day run at the Miller Theater (250 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, www.kimmelculturalcampus) as part of the Kimmel Cultural Campus current Broadway season. The show will run through May 7 at the venerable Center City theater.

“Jesus Christ Superstar” is a sung-through rock opera with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice. Loosely based on the gospel’s accounts of the Passion of Christ, the work interprets the psychology of Jesus and other characters, with much of the plot centered on Judas, who is dissatisfied with the direction in which Jesus is steering his disciples.

Contemporary attitudes, sensibilities and slang pervade the rock opera’s lyrics, and ironic allusions to modern life are scattered throughout the depiction of political events. Stage and film productions accordingly contain many intentional anachronisms.

Initially unable to get backing for a stage production, the composers released it as a concept album, the success of which led to the show’s Broadway on-stage debut in 1971. In 1973, “Jesus Christ Superstar” was one of the year’s most popular movies. By 1980, the musical had grossed more than $237 million worldwide.

“Jesus Christ Superstar” is an iconic musical phenomenon with a world-wide fan base. In celebration of its 50th Anniversary, a new mesmerizing production comes to North America.

Originally staged by London’s Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre and helmed by the acclaimed director Timothy Sheader (Crazy for You, Into the Woods) and award-winning choreographer Drew McOnie (King Kong, Strictly Ballroom), this production won the 2017 Olivier Award for Best Musical Revival garnering unprecedented reviews and accolades.

Appealing to both theater audiences and concert music fans, this production pays tribute to the historic 1971 Billboard Album of the Year while creating a modern, theatrical world that is uniquely fresh and inspiring.

The show is set against the backdrop of an extraordinary series of events during the final weeks in the life of Jesus Christ as seen through the eyes of Judas. Reflecting the rock roots that defined a generation, the legendary score includes “I Don’t Know How to Love Him,” “Gethsemane” and

Video link for “Jesus Christ Superstar”—https://youtu.be/MjjqhRmjs-Q.

“Jesus Christ Superstar” will run from May 2-7 at the Miller Theater. Ticket prices start at $40.

Andrew Duhon

Andrew Duhon has been making music professionally for more than a decade and has played at numerous venues all around the Delaware Valley.

Surprisingly, the New Orleans based musician has never performed at the Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, www.st94.com).

That will change this weekend when Duhon headlines a show in Sellersville on May 7.

“This will be my first time to play there,” said Duhon, during a phone interview from North Carolina as he travelled from Charlotte to a gig in Durham.

“I’ve heard great things about the venue and I’m really looking forward to the show.”

Duhon is still touring in support of his latest album, “Emerald Blue,” which was released last year.

For years, Andrew Duhon pursued his music career as a solo artist. He toured and recorded on his own. But that changed a few years ago when he opted to tour with a trio.

Duhon is a songwriter from New Orleans — a teller of stories with insightful lyrics and a distinctive voice. He has released four albums. His two previous albums were “The Moorings,” which was nominated for a Grammy in 2014 for “Best Engineered Album,” and “False River,” which was released in 2018.

“This tour will be with my trio for almost all the dates – Myles Weeks on bass and Jim Kolacek on drums,” said Duhon. “It will just be Myles for the first two shows and then Jim will join for the rest of the tour.

“We’ve been riding in this band as a trio for six years. I’ve bene with Myles for eight years. It’s great to have a group synergy that works.”

Duhon, whose list of influences includes Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Van Morrison, Leonard Cohen, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Edwin Torres, Robert Frost, Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, John Prine, and Townes Van Zandt, explained the shift from one-piece to three-piece.

“I needed a band to make a record a few years ago,” said Duhon. “I was looking at the usual suspects here in New Orleans and it wasn’t working out. Myles was always the guy I wanted to call.

“The last album we made was during COVID. We went to Dockside Studio in Metarie, Louisiana. I was able to put together the ‘A Team’ of New Orleans musicians because no-one was on tour.

“We went in looking to make 12 songs, got 18 and used 11. We finished mixing in January 2022 and it came out last July. I wasn’t in a hurry to get the record out.

“For me, I had spent five years pleased with the growth of my touring. I didn’t say no to a show. But I never had time to sit at home and work on drafts.

“I don’t really write on the road. Ideas will shake loose but I don’t actually write songs. The quarantine game me time to sit back and work on writing songs.

“During COVID 19, I started releasing videos. It felt like a great way to share the songs. About 40 songs came to life during that period. All the songs on the album were from my quarantine songs. But there were only a few that were quarantine influenced.”

Duhon’s writing influences are more than just musicians and singer/songwriters.

“I went to high school in Metarie,” said Duhon. “Thanks to one of my teachers there – Mr. Roso – I was bowled over by American history and literature such as Robert Frost and Henry David Thoreau. I saw a through line between that and Mississippi blues and Bob Dylan.

“For this tour now, we’ll play 18 shows and then head back to Louisiana. When I finish touring, I’ll start working on a new batch of songs.

“Songwriter or storyteller? I see myself as a songwriter who attempts to tell a story.”

Video link for Andrew Duhon – https://youtu.be/oeG53gemHxw.

The show on May 7 at the Sellersville Theater will start at 8 p.m.

Ticket prices start at $19.

On May 7, Kennett Symphony (kennettsymphony.org) will present David Kim, Concertmaster of The Philadelphia Orchestra as its Special Guest Artist for its “Masterworks 2” program.

The concert will start at 3 p.m. at the Madeleine Wing Adler Theatre at West Chester University (817 South High Street, West Chester).

Featured pieces will be Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D major, Op.35 by David Kim, Violin, Concertmaster

of The Philadelphia Orchestra along with Jean Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2.

Also featured will be “Neowise” by Roger Zare, who was the winner of Kennett Symphony’s Composition Competition.

After 132 submissions to the Symphony’s inaugural Composition Competition, the winning piece was “Neowise.” Inspired by science and nature, composer Roger Zare’s piece “Neowise” describes a comet that flew by the inner Solar System throughout July 2020.

There will be a “Pre-Concert Talk” by Music Director, Michael Hall from 2-2:30 p.m. The concert will start at 3 p.m. followed by a “Post Concert Q&A.”

Tickets are $50 and $58 with $10 tickets for students (ages 18 and under).

Additionally, Kennett Symphony will also present a Mother’s Day Weekend Chamber Music Concert on May 13 at 11 a.m. at Winterthur’s Copeland Lecture Hall.

In June, the Symphony will perform the third installment of its Masterworks Series. On June 25, “Masterworks 3: Symphony Under the Stars” will be held at 7:30 p.m. at Longwood Gardens’ Open Air Theatre.

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will present The Hypothetical House Band (with Jon Herington) on May 6 and Lori Citro on May 7.

Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center (226 North High Street, West Chester, www.uptownwestchester.org) will have Paula Johns Presents: “What the World Needs Now” Tribute to Burt Bacharach, Dionne Warwick and Hal David featuring The Dave Hartl Septet on May 4 and The Ultimate Broadway Playlist on May 5.

If you’re looking for a good time evening of live music, Jamey’s is always a good place to look.

Jamey’s House of Music (32 South Lansdowne Avenue, Lansdowne, 215-477-9985, www.jameyshouseofmusic.com) has an impressive lineup of shows for this weekend.

Michael London and Friends will headline on May 5. The show at Jamey’s on Friday will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door.

On May 6, the venue in Delaware County will present Settlement School Jazz Night.

The show at Jamey’s on Saturday will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door.

The “Thursday Night Jazz Jam” tonight will feature Suzie Telep.

Every Sunday, Jamey’s presents “Sunday Blues Brunch & Jam” featuring the Philly Blues Kings from noon-1 p.m. and an open jam session from1-3 p.m. There is no cover charge.

   Send article as PDF   

Share this post:

Related Posts

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.