The practice of performing albums in their entirety gives both artists and their fans the chance to hear the hits and underappreciated deep cuts as well. However, in many cases, most of a classic album is in the set anyway. Styx's 2012 three-disc (two CDs and one DVD) release The Grand Illusion/Pieces of Eight Live is a fine example of giving casual fans and diehards the best of both worlds, and there's certainly an audience for this, since both 1977's The Grand Illusion and 1978's Pieces of Eight went triple-platinum in the United States. This performance was recorded and filmed at the Orpheum Theatre in Memphis, Tennessee on November 9, 2010. Vocalist/guitarist Tommy Shaw, vocalist/guitarist James "JY" Young, vocalist/keyboardist Lawrence Gowan, bass guitarist Chuck Panozzo, bass guitarist Ricky Phillips, and drummer Todd Sucherman give a passionate, assured performance that salutes these albums specifically while generally and wistfully honoring the bygone days of the album era when listeners absorbed an entire slate of songs as one cohesive work, not just a single. (Shaw makes references to "side one" and "side two" of these albums, and the clever rear-screen video on-stage shows a teenage boy playing the actual original Styx vinyl LPs on a turntable and flipping them over.)
The biggest hits on The Grand Illusion are "The Grand Illusion," "Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)," and "Come Sail Away," but "Miss America," "Man in the Wilderness," and "Castle Walls" also stand out as they demonstrate the breadth of Styx's grasp of hard rock, pop, and progressive rock despite often being tagged as a prime example of an AOR and arena rock band. Pieces of Eight staples "Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)" and "Renegade" reach energetic highs, and "Sing for the Day," "Queen of Spades," and "Pieces of Eight" help tie the album together. In a perfect world, the classic lineup would still be together, but Gowan does a superb job of performing vocalist/keyboardist Dennis DeYoung's parts (without the occasional nasally pinch of DeYoung's higher register) and the underrated Sucherman is the glue that holds it all together. (Original drummer John Panozzo died in 1996).
DVD extras include detailed interviews with crew members and the band about the technical aspects of putting on a show like this and a nice piece on the subtle "Aku-Aku" fadeout from a musical standpoint. (The rear-screen video pullback shot during "Aku-Aku" is breathtaking). What truly matters in the end is that a band's music is kept alive, regardless of the lineup, and The Grand Illusion/Pieces of Eight Livesucceeds admirably.