Review: Styx – “The Mission”

Image result for styx the missionI still remember the first time I ever heard Styx. It was “Come Sail Away” on a crappy little Panasonic digital FM clock radio in 1977. The album The Grand Illusion, Styx’s seventh, was famously released on 7/7/77, making today it’s 40th anniversary. What better way to celebrate that than to focus on a brand-new album which has been lauded as a return to Styx’s heyday. And so, the Mission begins.

The Mission, Styx’s 16th studio album and it’s first album of original material in 14 years (following 2003’s excellent Cyclorama). It’s a concept album, built around the story of a crew on a mission to Mars on the rocket ship Khedive, focusing on the characters of the Pilot (Tommy Shaw), the First Officer (Lawrence Gowan) and nominally, the Engineer (James Young). Critics have raved over it, calling it Styx’s best album since Grand Illusion and 1978’s Pieces of Eight. Having been a Styx fan for a long time, and having really loved Cyclorama (which I thought was pretty darn great), I came to this album with a mix of excitement and cautiousness, therefore I wanted to sit with it for a while before I reviewed it.

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LIVE AID @ 30 – Top 10

30 years ago today I was glued to the TV and Radio. Since I couldn’t be in either Philadelphia or London, watching Live Aid as it happened on television was as close as I could get. I have incredibly vivid memories of that day, some of them reinforced (30 years is a long time!) by the release of a DVD set in 2004. I watched (or listened to, as I was forced to run a 2-hour errand for a friend) the entire thing, start to finish. It was in incredible day that produced some amazing music. Here’s my Top 10 performances:

At the time, the Hooters were just emerging on the scene. As they were from Philly, so they were a natural fit to kick off the Philly show (even though the announcer in this clip says they’re in London). They played two songs, but only one of them can be found on YouTube currently. Neither song was included on the official DVD.

Full Set:
“And We Danced”
“All You Zombies”

An American staple. Good, straight-forward American rock. Nothing fancy, but always solid. Don’t have a video of the full set, so I’m including his opener, “American Girl,” only because the cheeky monkey flips a bird at the camera in the first chorus.

Full Set:
“American Girl”
“The Waiting”

At the time, I remember wondering why the hell Patti Labelle was placed in the running order where she was, with all the big “headline” acts. But she gives a powerful performance on both original songs and a couple of covers. Ms. Patti is one of the greatest singers on the planet. Plus, if nothing else, her amazing hair would earn her a spot on my list. Here she is singing the absolute living shit out of Dylan’s “Forever Young.” At the end, she walks around the stage with no mic and you can still hear her. That’s power.

Full Set:
“New Attitude”
“Forever Young”
“Stir it Up”
“Over the Rainbow”
“Why Can’t I Get It Over”

The street punks are now the responsible adults. But they still know how to rock like crazy. The second half of the London show was living legend followed by living legend. It must have been an amazing thing to experience. Here’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, the seminal classic, complete with a fuck up by Roger Daltrey. But other than, its a fantastic performance. And for the record, if I looked like Roger Daltrey, I would never wear clothes.

Full Set:
“My Generation” / “Pinball Wizard”
Love Reign O’er Me”
“Won’t Get Fooled Again”

The Zeppelin dudes didn’t want their performance to be included on the official DVD release because they felt it was “subpar.” And it is. But subpar Zeppelin is still pretty damn good. And an opportunity like this doesn’t happen very often. It should be celebrated when it does happen.

Full Set:
“Rock and Roll”
“Whole Lotta Love”
“Stairway to Heaven”

A powerhouse band that gave a powerhouse performance. Here’s their complete set culled from different sources (based on the difference in sound quality). Priest gave the American stage a sorely needed shot of heavy metal. This clip is the complete set and starts with an interview with Halford.

Full Set:
“Living After Midnight”
“Green Manalishi”
“You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'”

I have to admit that I’m not a Clapton fan. I know a lot of his music, of course, and like some songs more than others, but I can pretty much take or leave him. However, he blew me away at Live Aid. Amazing performance. Three really well selected songs, each performed by a master of his craft and a great band.

Full Set:
“White Room”
“She’s Waiting”

Elton’s show was amazing. The first song, “I’m Still Standing,” was marred by mic feedback, but after that, it was close to perfect. Because of delays in the running order, Wham! gave up their performance slot so that Elton could do his full show. But Elton invited the Wham! guys to sit in with him on “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down.” There doesn’t seem to be a complete performance on YouTube, so I picked “Rocket Man” because its my favorite version of that song ever.

Full Set:
“I’m Still Standing”
“Bennie and the Jets”
“Rocket Man”
“Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart” (with Kiki Dee)
“Don’t Let the Sun Go Down” (with Wham!)
“Can I Get a Witness”

“We can be heroes, just for one day.” That song and that performance sum up the entire Live Aid day. Bowie is in perfect voice in this show with a great (and very quickly assembled) backing band, playing the perfect setlist. The end of “Heroes”, with the crowd clapping along, gives me chills every time. This is, by far, my favorite performance of “Heroes.”

Full Set:
“Rebel Rebel”
“Modern Love”

Really, there’s nothing else that can claim the top spot. Queen was absolutely on fire. The crowd’s reaction before they even sang a note showed that *this* was the act that everyone was waiting for, and the band didn’t disappoint. Brian May said that when the audience did the clap-along in “Radio Ga Ga” it took the band completely by surprise, as it had never happened before. And then the ovation at the end was like a volcanic eruption. It’s absolutely amazing to watch.

Full Set:
“Bohemian Rhapsody” / “Radio Ga Ga”
“Hammer to Fall”
“Crazy Little Thing Called Love”
“We Will Rock You” / “We Are the Champions”