By Clint Switzer - Music Mania

Two undisputed champions of 70's arena rock joined forces on Saturday night in bombastic celebration inside Springfield's near-capacity JQH Arena. The show was part of a min-tour before each band goes their separate ways for  respective summer ventures and even though these two rock heavyweights have shared stages many times in the past, this felt like a special occasion as the receptive crowd sang along with each and every song with nostalgic furor. 

The evening began with a 35-minute set from Illinois' own Head East, a band that gained fame in 1975 with the unforgettable rock single "Never Been Any Reason," a song that has been featured in hit films like "Dazed and Confused" and is often cited as one of the decade's most important tracks. The set was short and the sound was a bit low but vocalist Darren Walker' high-energy voice stood out as the band seamlessly rolled through songs like "Raise a Little Hell," "Elijah," and "Since You've Been Gone." The final song of the evening was, in fact, the band's mega-hit which properly revved the crowd to a frenzy in anticipation of what was to come.


Styx took the stage promptly at 8:00 P.M. with a rendition of "Gone Gone Gone," a song from the band's latest album "The Mission." By the time they broke in to "Blue Collar Man," the insatiable crowd was on its feet and cheering every pulsating moment. Styx's sound was precise and thick throughout the evening and a perfect blend of old classics and new tunes peppered the 14-song set. Guitarist/vocalist Tommy  Shaw's unabashed rockstar voice and presence has long been the backbone of the band and his skills were on full display. 

While Shaw perfectly handled songs like "Blue Collar Man," "Renegade," and "Too Much time on My Hands," it would be keyboardist/singer Lawrence Gowan that truly left his stamp on this performance with unforgettable and spectacular versions of "Lady," and "The Grand Illusion." Gowan has now been a part of Styx for 20 years and his inclusion, undoubtedly, helps keep the band at the top of their game. 

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