ON A ‘MISSION’

Styx weathers changes, keeps playing

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With a new album – number 16 – due out in a matter of weeks, Styx will perform in Key West on Thursday, May 17.

The album, “The Mission,” is envisioned as a chronicle of the first manned mission to Mars in the year 2033. Songs include “Gone Gone Gone,” “Radio Silence,” “Locomotive” and “Red Storm,” among others. The band spent almost two years off and on working on the music.

Reflecting on the album, James “JY” Young – who shares lead vocal duties with Tommy Shaw – said, “Tommy likes to say, ‘From a tiny acorn a giant oak doth grow.’ … It shows how we work as a team. The skill level of the band has allowed us to go do things we just couldn’t have otherwise in the past.”

“Working on ‘The Mission’ was so fun and so easy,” said Jim Scott, who mixed the album at his Plyrz Studio in Nashville. “It was a very pure and simple mostly analog recording, and I mixed it the same way — no samples, and no shenanigans. Each time I listened back to it, I found each song could have other meanings and images separate from the overall space saga.”

Founded in Chicago in 1972, Styx was the first band in rock history to have four consecutive certified multimillion-selling albums: 1977’s “The Grand Illusion,” 1978’s “Pieces of Eight,” 1979’s “Cornerstone” and 1981’s “Paradise Theatre.”

The band has weathered changes both internal and external in its decades of existence.

In 1984, after the successes of the late ’70s and early ’80s, members went their own ways for a time. After reuniting, Young and Shaw wanted to keep the band’s momentum intact, and they began to discuss how to do just that. But to move ahead, they had to part ways with founding member Dennis DeYoung — the man behind some of the band’s most indelible hits, including “Lady,” “The Grand Illusion,” and “Come Sail Away” — because, the band says, the collective chemistry had changed. “Dennis led the charge to the top of the charts,” said Young. “He’s an incredible singer, a motivated writer who wrote some great lyrics, and one very strong keyboard player. He just didn’t want to be part of a democracy. We truly wish him well. We did some incredible work together, but there’s no basis for us to work together again.”

The band has played more than 100 shows a year every year since 1999.

On stage, the band is devoted to artistry. “We learned the art of theater from David Bowie,” said bassist Chuck Panozzo. “We opened for him on his first American tour at Performance Hall in Kansas City (on Oct. 15, 1972). When he entered the stage, it was such a mindblowing experience.”

“We just want to keep on doing this,” said Shaw. “We want to let life take its course and let this music continue to be the soundtrack to it. It’s like a photo album where you keep adding some new photos of what’s in your house. You know, you’re adding some new furniture, and you’re also building onto the structure of the house, and you’re building the family. And this band’s photo album will continue to evolve as long as we live and play this music.”

Styx & Blue Oyster Cult
Thursday, May 17
Key West Amphitheater at Truman Waterfront
Doors: 5 p.m./ Show: 6:30 p.m.
Tickets $65 – $95
Information and tickets:
www.thekeywesttheater.com

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