The Grand Illusion/Pieces of Eight Live (2012)

Disc One 1. The Grand Illusion 2. Fooling Yourself 3. Superstars 4. Come Sail Away 5. Miss America 6. Man in the Wilderness 7. Castlewalls 8. The Grand Finale Disc Two 1. The Great White Hope 2. I'm O.K. 3. Sing for the Day 4. The Message 5. Lords of the Ring 6. Blue Collar Man 7. Queen of Spades 8. Renegade 9. Pieces of Eight 10.Aku-Aku


As I've mentioned on my previous reviews, 21st century Styx seemed to frequently be struggling with finding material and some sort of purpose that would connect with their longtime fans. On this record, they finally do something right. When you think of the Styx albums in the band's long history that both a)Sold really well and b)were liked by Tommy Shaw and James Young, you sadly only had two albums. Those being 1977's The Grand Illusion and 1978's Pieces of Eight. Not surprisingly, when they toured in 2011, they made the decision to feature both of these albums in their entirety.

This CD was meant as a "compliment" to a DVD of the show that was released. To be fair, I haven't seen the DVD, but from what I hear on the CD, I actually like quite a bit. Yes, there are a chunk of songs here that I wish they would retire. Since they're popular and favorites of Tommy and JY, they've been on every live album (and there have been a lot) in the last ten years. But what is a nice surprise is some of the rarer cuts. I honestly can't remember if they've performed Pieces of Eight or Lords of the Ring of late, but it is extremely refreshing to hear something somewhat "new". Then, we must give credit to Lawrence Gowen. The poor guy will never live up to everyone's expectations since he replaced Dennis DeYoung, but now that he's been with the band for over a decade, we can safely say that he's an official "mainstay" of the band. It may have sounded too foreign back in 1999 when he sang some DeYoung classics, but he handles the chore very well here, and the majority don't seem to mind anymore when we hear him singing the Dennis cuts.

Since I haven't seen the DVD, I must confess that the audience sounds much smaller and more subdued than the audiences of Styx tours past. Even the in between chatter by the guys sounds a bit forced. It would have been nice, maybe, to have the guys talk more about the history of each song, yet we have to endure silly stories of Popeye the sailor man and hear Tommy scream - "OK we're done with side one! So let's FLIP IT OVER!". He actually does this twice.

Speaking of "flipping records over", I seem to be in the minority of fans when I state that it might have been better to have done this recording in a slightly different order than what is on the record. At least then there could have been a bit of an element of surprise. It seems a bit anti-climatic to end a show with the song Pieces of Eight and then Aku-Aku. Both excellent songs done well here, but awfully tuned down for a show closer.

It was nice to see them role the dice and come up with a "7" finally.

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