When an established band loses its lead singer, they can recruit a sound-a-like (Journey's Arnel Pineda) or be daring and try something different (Queen with Adam Lambert).
Styx went somewhere in the middle when they recruited Canadian pop star Lawrence Gowan in 1999. Although Gowan has been with the band for 20 years, it was the first time Styx has played in Penticton with the "Strange Animal" singer at the forefront.
His voice is similar in style to the long-departed Dennis DeYoung, but he brings his own interpretation to old chestnuts like "Come Sail Away" and "Mr. Roboto."
And Gowan was the show, Wednesday, when the band offered an evening of nostalgia at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
At age 62, Gowan has the showmanship, enthusiasm and athleticism of a performer half his age. Although Styx was never "his" band, the established members allowed him to take the front man's role for most of the 90 minutes, tinkling the ivories on a piece of classical music before leading the crowd in a brief rendition of "Bohemian Rhapsody," by one of his piano idols, Freddie Mercury.
Perhaps the night's most dramatic moment was "A Criminal Mind," arguably his most famous solo song released 14 years before he joined Styx.
The set featured a generous helping from "The Grand Illusion," their best-selling album, but "Radio Silence," from 2017's "The Mission" went over well and didn't seem out of place on a set list filled with staples from classic rock radio.
And, man, was the crowd into it. From the opening chords of "Gone, Gone, Gone" (also from "The Mission") to "Too Much Time On My Hands," fans seated on the floor never sat down.
For those who entered the arena as a fan of Gowan or Shaw (the cute one), most would have left as Todd Sucherman fans. The youngest musician on stage, he became Styx's full-time drummer in 1996 following the death of original John Panozzo.
Styx's music is complex and Sucherman (who cut his chops with Spinal Tap and Brian Wilson, among others) was recognized recently when "Modern Drummer" magazine named him the best rock drummer in the world.
The five musicians on stage (bassist Chuck Panozzo was absent) were tight and skilled
Opening for Styx was Loverboy, which features all the original members except one (bassist Scott Smith died in a boating accident in 2000).
"Do you like 80's music?," lead singer Mike Reno asked. "Well then, you've come to the right place."
It was a 65-minute set of nostalgia, starting with "Notorious," which Reno and Paul Dean co-wrote with Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora and ending with "Working for the Weekend."
Their show stopper, "Lovin' Every Minute of It," one of the few hits they didn't write (it was offered to them by Mutt Lange) came fourth in the set. As a surprise, Reno brought his wife Cathy St. Germain on stage to perform a duet on "Almost Paradise," a song they seldom do in concert because it was a side project.
The set list was predictable and with the exception of "Almost Paradise," they dedicated the night to their rockers, omitting several of their successful power ballads.
Dressed in a "Straight Out of Penticton," T-shirt, Reno recognized his adopted hometown late in the show, twice saying, "It's good to be home."
It's not often an opening act gets the enthusiastic response and love that Loverboy did. As men in their 60s, they still sound great. (Both bands experienced some minor technical difficulties with sound early in their sets.)
As the opening act, Loverboy didn't show up Styx. Instead they offered a great one-two punch of classic rock, even though their styles lack similarities.
STYX SET LIST
Gone Gone Gone
Blue COllar Man
The Grand Illusion
Rockin' the Paradise
Suite Madam Blue
A Criminal Mind
Fooling Yourself (Angry Young Man)
Too Much Time on My Hands
Gowan piano solo/Bohemian Rhapsody
Come Sail Away