In California, one-half of Damn Yankees play their Top 5 single from 1990 together for the first time in years.

by Mike Mettler, resident Styxologist

Night Ranger vocalist/bassist Jack Blades approached the centerstage microphone with a certain look on his face. “People keep asking me, ‘When is there gonna be a Damn Yankees reunion’?” he teased the enthusiastic crowd gathered at the Outdoor Ampitheater at Thunder Valley Casino Resort in Lincoln, California on Saturday, July 27.

It was 7:27 p.m. Pacific time, and that was the verbal cue for Styx guitarist/vocalist Tommy Shaw to emerge from the right-stage wings with an acoustic guitar slung over his shoulder and sunglasses fully in tow. Shaw planted himself in front of the mic stand just to the right of Blades (to an audience member’s view, however, he was on the left) to join Night Ranger for their team-up version of the big Damn Yankees hit single Shaw and Blades had written together (with an assist from Ted Nugent) almost 30 years ago, “High Enough.”

For the next four minutes, three decades melted away in the breeze as the two friends and songwriting partners harmonized together (sometimes on the same mic) on one of their collectively biggest charting singles ever, and all was right in the world. (Okay, so maybe I was thinking of a metaphorical breeze since it was 102 degrees in the shade that afternoon, but I digress. . . )

For those keeping score, “High Enough,” the second single from February 1990’s Damn Yankees — the self-titled, double-platinum debut album by an AOR supergroup of sorts that featured Shaw on guitar and vocals, Blades on bass and vocals, Nugent on guitar and vocals, and Michael Cartellone on drums — made it all the way to No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, and No. 2 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock singles chart. (In case you were wondering, “High Enough” was kept out of the top spot on the Hot 100 by the likes of Wilson Phillips, Roxette, and New Kids on the Block — yep, those were different times. . .)

The partial DY reunion actually came together quite organically. Night Ranger arrived backstage around 4:50 p.m., not 15 minutes after the members of Styx began emerging individually from their nearby tour bus to head to their dressing room trailer. When Blades and his NR bandmates entered the restricted artist area, he immediately came across Tommy and Rod Essig, the legendary CAA promoter who had worked with Damn Yankees during their early-1990s heyday. Just behind and to the right of this trio, co-founding Styx guitarist/vocalist James “JY” Young and Night Ranger drummer Kelly Keagy took a moment to catch up. “Hey, get a picture of Tommy and me together so I can send it to Mollie,” Jack said to his tour manager, referring to his wife of 42 years and counting. (I snapped a shot too, as you can see.)

Within the hour, Night Ranger was doing a brief soundcheck when Tommy joined them onstage for a run-through of “High Enough” around 5:48 p.m. For those four minutes, the “We don’t need to talk about it anymore” harmonies soared anew like little time had passed, and without any stutter steps. Almost two hours later, Blades, shades on and baseball cap turned backwards, made the above-noted overture, and history was duly (re)made.

No one could quite remember the exact last time Shaw and Blades had performed “High Enough” together, though we did recall a few shows when Shaw came onstage to do the song with NR during the Can’t Stop Rockin’ Tour in November 2009. Of course, Shaw-Blades performed the song during their Spring and Fall 2007 tour legs, and Styx has played “High Enough” live here and there throughout the last few decades. (Incidentally, the same live version of the song can be found on both StyxWorld Live 2001 and 21st Century Live.) Styx later recorded a studio version of “High Enough,” along with “Coming of Age,” for 2011’s Regeneration II. And, of course, Tommy performed “High Enough” alongside his Shaw-Blades bandmate Will Evankovich, conductor Liza Grossman, and Contemporary Youth Orchestra in May 2016 for the for Sing for the Day! CD and Blu-ray, which was released in June 2018.

As Tommy caught his breath back in the Styx dressing room just a few minutes after walking offstage at Thunder Valley to a roar of applause, he told me, “It’s been years since we’ve done that together, but it felt great. For a moment, I was like, ‘Okay, what comes next?’ (laughs), but then it all just happened. The nice thing about it is, we didn’t rehearse it that much — we just went out there and sang the song. It’s a lot more fun when it looks like that too. When you play like that with your friends, there’s nothing you have to overcome. You just get up there and do it. I mean, that song’s our baby!”

I spoke with Jack backstage around 7:52 p.m., just a few minutes after Night Ranger’s overall set had finished, and he too was still quite jazzed about playing the song with his friend. “All the guys in the band said, ‘So this is what it’s supposed to sound like!’ (both laugh) It was wonderful, man! We also went on the same mic to sing some of it too. Oh my gosh, it was like twentysomething years had not even passed!”

Well done, gents. Yesterday’s just a memory, indeed.