Originally created 01/19/01

Styx not stuck in past



In 1997, Radiohead released O.K. Computer, a concept album about a sterile world where technology has left humanity cold and barren, and critics raved.

Of course, Midwest rockers Styx had made the same album in 1983, only then it was Kilroy Was Here.

In 1993, U2 set off across the globe on its Zooropa tour, a lavish stage show replete with lasers, lights and other technological ephemera, and audiences were dazzled.

It was a lot like the Styx's 1982 Paradise Theater tour.

Often labeled as an overwrought artifact of the disco decade, Styx and bands of its ilk are responsible for the way rock music looks and sounds today.

Ask Tommy Shaw, who has served as Styx's singer/songwriter/guitarist for more than 25 years.

"Being able to create like that is one of the things that makes this music interesting," he said in a recent telephone interview. "It still is. It gives musicians a license to do whatever they want. And you know what, that is a license that never expires."

Mr. Shaw and Styx perform Monday in a concert at the Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center that also features REO Speedwagon.

Mr. Shaw has played with both Styx and Damn Yankees, a rock super group with which he served a two-album stint in the early '90s. Despite a short foray into the solo arena, he said he needs a band.

"I just like working with other people," he said. "It is easier for me to write for the people I work with than for myself. So when I find a group like Styx or Damn Yankees, I'm a happy man. With those groups I could really hear what the others guys would do. I can hear (Damn Yankees front man) Ted Nugent in my head."

Although the band had already enjoyed modest success, 1977's Grand Illusion album assured Styx a place in rock history. Mr. Shaw said he still remembers listening to the album for the first time as one of the great moments of his career.

"All I could think was that this was the best thing I had ever done," he said. "I remember hoping that nobody in the band would step out in front of a bus because I knew that if we could deliver these songs to the fans, it would change our lives forever - and it did."

Although Grand Illusion quickly became a fan favorite, and the album most closely associated with the band, Mr. Shaw said he hopes a song off another, earlier album will be remembered as his best.

"I hope the public would say it was Crystal Ball," he said, "just because that song came from such a pure, innocent place. I wasn't in Styx, and I didn't have a record contract when I wrote that.

"I wrote it at my mother's kitchen table at a time when I was really wondering what the future would hold. Of course, then Styx called and I was able to finish it with the band."

Mr. Shaw said that being able to tour with REO Speedwagon, often portrayed as a Styx rival for the arena rock crown, has been a pleasure not just musically but also personally.

"We're like a brotherhood," he said. "Before, we were like two ships passing in the night, so we have these similar stories, and now that we've joined forces it has been dynamite.

"It's like (Muhammad) Ali and (Joe) Frazier climbing into the ring. Separately we are great bands, but put us in the ring together and it is something more."

On stage

What: Styx and REO Speedwagon

When: 7 p.m. Monday

Where: The Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center, 601 Seventh St.

Admission: $36; call 724-2400

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or suhles@hotmail.com.