Addicted To Vinyl Musical thoughts from the open road, with headphones on

18Jul/0910

Setlist: Dennis DeYoung/Survivor – Clay’s Park – 7/17/09

The classic rock themed Rock N Resort festival, located at Clay's Park in nearby North Lawrence, OH, has been on my list for a few years now to check out with at least one band of interest on the bill each year. Now in its sixth year, this year's festival had quite a few names of interest, with former Styx lead singer Dennis DeYoung and Survivor sitting at the top of the list.

Luckily enough, both acts were playing on the same night, and good friend Chris Akin had several passes to check out the action, and thus our mid-July Friday night plans were set. As is usually the case on any day that I know that I will be spending the evening outdoors, it rained hard for most of the day, so I knew that mud would be a part of the evening's activities.

Despite thinking of it, I managed to get out to Clay's Park without a folding chair, no surprise to those of you that have read my previous concert updates this summer. I've got like six of them now, and after last night, I will be putting one in the car so that I am covered for nights like this one, populated with a sea of similar folding chairs.

I'll give Brian a moment now to stop his snickering about the previous. Ya done? Okay then....

The mid-90s reunion of Dennis DeYoung and Styx is one of those reunions that I should have gone to. I had several opportunities, and as someone that was too young to have seen the original Styx back in the day, it was definitely something that I wanted to see. Other things took priority, and by the end of the 90s, my opportunity had come and gone. While I've seen Styx without DeYoung several times since then, and enjoy the harder rocking Tommy Shaw led version quite a bit, there are a number of DeYoung tunes that they don't play - "Don't Let It End," to name one.

So what is Dennis DeYoung up to these days, anyway? DeYoung has been touring again in recent years, releasing a live collection in 2004 that collects nicely many of DeYoung's finest tracks, covering his career both solo and with Styx, backed by a symphony orchestra. The collection rocks more than you would expect from DeYoung, or your typical symphonic live record.

dennis-deyoung.jpg

In 2007, DeYoung released a new studio album, 100 Years From Now in Canada, a collection that promised and mostly delivered the return of a more rockin' Dennis DeYoung. DeYoung scored a surprise hit in Canada with the title track, and the album was finally released here in the United States earlier this year with a couple of new tracks added, via Rounder Records.

For the Clay's Park gig, DeYoung was backed by a band featuring longtime guitarist Tommy Dziallo (incidentally, the guitarist who played on DeYoung's 80s solo hit "Desert Moon,") guitarist Jimmy Leahey (John Waite, etc) bassist Hank Horton, keyboard player John Blasucci, and drummer Kyle Woodring (John Mellencamp.) After all of these years, DeYoung's vocals still sound brilliantly perfect and were on fine display from the opening moments of "Grand Illusion," which segued immediately into another Styx favorite, "Lady." Of immediate interest were the amount of people in attendance seeing their first Dennis DeYoung show, something which caught DeYoung by surprise. DeYoung quipped "I'm 62 years old, where the hell have you all been all of these years?"

After seeing several Styx shows, where there is no mention of DeYoung, it was interesting to see the reverse behavior from DeYoung, who made frequent reference to his former band, and made note of songs that he wrote and sang, that "you can only hear by coming to see one of my shows," a line used as part of the intro for "Castle Walls" from The Grand Illusion album.

Proving that we remain total opposites musically in many areas, "Don't Let It End" and "Desert Moon" were two of my favorites that I was looking forward to hearing. Meanwhile, those same two tracks are at the top of the list for Chris on his personal list of DeYoung tracks he likes the least. The latter track featured an extended guitar jam that was a bit much, even for my taste, and yet it felt right in the nighttime air at Clay's Park, which was chilly to the point that we were questioning whether it was really July.

As the guy voted most likely not to rock if given the choice, during his time in Styx, DeYoung's set was surprisingly uptempo for the bulk of the set. There were no real setlist surprises for anyone that has the previously mentioned live album, but nuggets like "Light Up" and "Suite Madame Blue" are a nice surprise for anyone that might have shown up expecting only the hits. And the fact that DeYoung's voice still delivers crystal-clear renditions of all of the songs that you remember, completes the package for a perfectly enjoyable evening of rock and roll. Accessorized with an excellent band, DeYoung delivered a great performance despite a sound mix that was often questionable. I'd love to see DeYoung back with Styx for one more go-around, but if that never happens, I'm content having seen a great gig that hit most of the marks.

One more important note - "Mr. Roboto" was in the setlist, no surprise there, but what was a surprise was to get a rendition complete with robot dance moves AND to the unexpected horror of Chris, the accompanying mask as well! We may never be the same after witnessing this.

Survivor, with newish lead singer Robin McAuley (ex-McAuley-Schenker Group) on vocals, opened the evening with an hour's worth of hits, a couple of deep tracks, and at least one setlist headscratcher. Guitarist Frankie Sullivan is the only remaining original member, along with (nearly) original drummer Marc Droubay (who joined in 1981) as the two recognizable faces in the lineup. With McAuley, the band finally have a singer that can handle both the Dave Bickler and Jimi Jamison vocal eras of Survivor with ease. Jamison himself, never sang his own hits as well live as McAuley sings them now, in the original key. This is the second time that I've seen Survivor with McAuley, and the Vital Signs opener "First Night" still sounds a bit awkwardly Scorpions-like vocally, but McAuley had the Clay's Park crowd easily in his hand from moment one.

Droubay is one of the hardest hitting drummers you'll see in the classic rock world, something that caught me a bit by surprise when I saw the band for the first time last summer. Unfortunately, the sound mix didn't do Droubay (or Survivor period) justice tonight, but the crowd were already feeling good enough that I doubt any of them noticed.

That is the thing with a festival atmosphere like this one - as long as the band can play the hits and make them sound at least a little bit like the originals, it's an easy win in front of an alcohol fueled audience that isn't likely to be the harshest bunch of critics that you've ever played for. The crowd was the usual mix that you might expect of inappropriate flesh on display, plenty of tramp stamps, the occasional Hulkamania t-shirt (okay just one, actually,) and.....a parrot?

parrotman.jpg

Chalk that up as one of the oddest things I've ever seen at a concert.

And then there is the unplanned interaction with the crowd around you - huge points to the guy conversing with us before the show that was "end of the night drunk" before Survivor even played their first note. After "High on You," Chris made the comment "alright let's go, bring on the good stuff!"

"Yeah! Like Eye of the Tiger!" was the animated yet absolutely serious reply from the seemingly completely sober female nearby.

Uh, no.

This is the same type of person that worries that Night Ranger isn't going to play "Sister Christian." I'm thinking that for fun, perhaps I'll go to the next classic rock show and hand out setlists to every person around me. Just to be nice, ya know?

Having followed Survivor setlists for quite a while through the years, I am slightly surprised by some of the songs that they pull out - "Somewhere in America" from Survivor, "Burning Bridges" from Too Hot To Sleep, and also by the songs that aren't in the setlist? Top Ten hit "Is This Love" is the omission that surprises me the most, and I'd also like to hear "How Much Love" or ANYTHING off of the When Seconds Count album. The Caught In The Game album went completely unrepresented in the night's set, and overall the setlist was relatively light on Dave Bickler-era material. As a fan of both eras, I'd love to see at least one more choice Bickler cut in the setlist.

The 38 Special hit "Rockin' Into The Night," co-written by Sullivan and former co-writer/Survivor member Jim Peterik, was in the setlist and while it was instantly recognizable to the crowd, it feels unnecessary - Survivor have enough hits in their catalog, that they shouldn't have to do what ultimately feels like "padding" the setlist.

And just one more gripe, as a non-keyboard player: Is it really THAT hard to get the right keyboard samples that sound like the original recordings? That always drives me nuts, and yet I am impressed when I actually see a band that apparently took the time to get it right.

Overall, DeYoung and Survivor provided a night of rock and roll bliss for campers on the opening night of a three day weekend that will include sets from (fake) Asia featuring John Payne, and Kansas tonight. 38 Special and Canned Heat will close out the three day festival on Sunday night.

I'm glad we finally made the trip out to Clay's Park for Rock N Resort - it was an undeniably fun evening of music and plenty of people watching. An event like this is the perfect excuse for someone to let their freak flag fly, and Friday night, there were plenty that did just that.

Speaking of Survivor:

While we're talking about Survivor, I should let you know that former lead singer Jimi Jamison has a great new album out called Crossroads Moment. Depending on your viewpoint, it's either the album that Survivor should have made after Too Hot To Sleep (an album I didn't like,) or in my opinion, the album that they should have made after When Seconds Count. The album reunites Jamison with former Survivor bandmate Jim Peterik in the recording studio for the first time since that Too Hot To Sleep album in 1988. Peterik wrote all of the songs for the release, and it's the best batch of songs from both Peterik and Jamison in years.

When the album was initially released last year, it didn't really grab me, until I read the following piece at Popdose, which made me wonder if I had missed something. Upon giving the album another listen, I finally got it. I'm not sure why I didn't like this one on the first go-around, because it's absolutely fantastic!

Meanwhile, Jamison and fellow former Survivor lead singer Dave Bickler shared the stage for an unusual event recently - The pair performed at Sony A&R man Jeremy Holiday's wedding, performing four Survivor classics - "The Search Is Over," "I Can't Hold Back," "High On You," and (of course) "Eye Of The Tiger." Jim Peterik recorded two tracks for the occasion - a version of the Survivor album classic "Ever Since The World Began," and another track called "Forever In A Day." The two tracks were given away on CD by the couple as a gift to all of the guests in attendance.

The full writeup on the above interesting performance is here, and something interesting of note - this is not the first time that Peterik has done something classy involving "Ever Since The World Began." Click here and read a great story from Popdose writer Rob Smith, who tells the story of how "Ever Since The World Began" was involved in his special day.

As a longtime Survivor fan, I love that Jamison, Bickler, and Peterik are all working together these days. They've already shared the stage together as part of one of Peterik's World Stage gigs, and I'd love to see the trio do some more live work in the future. And perhaps we can even get an album of material out of Dave Bickler, something that is long overdue!

Wrapping up and getting back to where we started from, here are both of the setlists from last night's gig.

Dennis DeYoung setlist:

Grand Illusion
Lady
Loralei
Don't Let It End
Light Up
Mr. Roboto
100 Years From Now
Desert Moon
Castle Walls
Rockin' The Paradise
Suite Madame Blue
Babe
Best of Times
Come Sail Away

Survivor setlist:

First Night
Burning Heart
Broken Promises
Poor Man's Son
High On You
Rockin' Into The Night (38 Special "cover")
The Search Is Over
Burning Bridges
Somewhere In America
I Can't Hold Back

encore:

Eye of the Tiger

  • http://www.brokenheadphones.com Brian

    Thank you for not inviting me. Seriously, thank you. I think I might have started drinking Genessee Cream Ale if I were there.

    Also I am working on creating you a pair of folding chair pants. This way you can sit whenever needed and stop forcing people to stop at Wal Marts on the way to shows so you can buy another folding chair.

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  • kevin

    Great full length report. Props to you for keeping the tour schedule alive and making it to all of these shows.

    Having seen the other “Styx,” there are definitely some holes that DDeYoung fills so it’s good for his fans that he is still out there.

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