Come Sail Away With Styx

A Sept. 15 stop in the desert will include their hits, but also songs from a new album released over the summer — the first in 14 years.

Mike Mettler Arts & Entertainment

Keyboardist Lawrence Gowan and guitarist Ricky Phillips are two reasons why Styx continues to attract a strong following.

Since 1999, Styx has averaged well over 100 shows a year uninterrupted, and there’s no signs of them slowing down anytime soon.

“To see a band that can do it live like Styx does — that really sets the standard for your expectations,” observes Styx keyboardist/vocalist Lawrence Gowan, who has played every single one of those aforementioned shows for the past 19 years (and counting). “And when younger people who have no nostalgic connection to the ’70s come see Styx, it validates their curiosity when they see it done on that level: ‘Oh wow — I’m seeing that music the way it was originally done. No wonder people were so turned on by it.’”

Styx will play a mixture of their tried-and-true classics (Renegade, Come Sail Away, The Grand Illusion, Blue Collar Man, and Too Much Time on My Hands), as well as key selections from The Mission (their first studio album of all-new material in 14 years that was released in June), when they headline Sept. 15 at The Show at Agua Caliente in Rancho Mirage.



Styx band members (from left): Lawrence Gowan, Chuck Panozzo, Tommy Shaw, James “JY” Young, Ricky Phillips, and Todd Sucherman.

Palm Springs Life recently sat down with Gowan backstage before the final date of Styx’s successful United We Rock summer package tour with Don Felder and REO Speedwagon to discuss how the band’s setlist changes and expands for their longer headlining shows, why The Mission had such immediate impact with their fans, and how they continue to connect with a younger audience.

PSL: I know whenever you’re on tour, you like to get out of the hotel and walk around whatever town you’re in and explore your surroundings.

Lawrence Gowan: I do love walking around the town I’m in, and just drinking it all in. The last time I did that in Palm Springs, I was actually thinking about Bob Hope, The Rat Pack, and all the old-school show-biz people I’d hear about running the town for years. In a way, they became the classic-rock people for a certain generation like mine.

And as the lone Canadian in the band, being in Palm Springs during any time of the year is always a very welcome place to be! (laughs) It’s also so nice to see the genuine enthusiasm from the audiences we’ve played to in Palm Springs, so we love coming back here year after year.

PSL: Now that the United We Rock summer tour has ended, Styx will play longer sets in the fall. What can we expect to see at the Agua Caliente show?

LG: I’m hoping we’ll be able to add at least one more song from The Mission to that set. We’ve already been playing Gone Gone Gone and Radio Silence, and we’ve just started doing Locomotive. Since the new album is continuing to chart really well, it merits us adding at least one or two more.

But I also like it whenever we add in extra songs from albums like The Grand Illusion (1977) and Pieces of Eight (1978). I think those songs are the most seamlessly connected to The Mission. Those two albums are most in the paradigm of what The Mission is.


The Mission, released in June, is the first all-new material album from Styx in 14 years.

PSL: Was some of that connection born out of you playing the Oberheim keyboard synthesizer on The Mission? Did that connect them all structurally, sonically, or a little of both?

LG: It’s both. It connects them structurally and sonically, quite honestly. We went to great pains to arrange the songs in a manner where you could hear the five-piece combo, and you never lose that. Personally, that’s what I think the magic is of those few albums. There was never any extraneous sound, and yet it is a very full sound that you could pick apart to find those five individual voices that still sound like one voice.

Ever since we finished The Mission, I feel we’ve found our one voice as a unit. We have always been a very entertaining band of very disparate parts that puts on a very strong, epic rock show, but that’s what’s made this the most enjoyable chapter of my career in the band. I’ve enjoyed the whole ride — there’s never been a time where I didn’t like it — but this is the most satisfying and greatest time to observe what we do.

I also love the fact that the debate now among the fans is, ‘Where does The Mission sit in the Top 5 Styx albums?’ That’s a fantastic place for the album to already be in!

PSL: You never really know if you’re on the right track until you release the new music you’ve labored so hard over and get that response from the listening public.


Styx rehearses during its summer tour in Ridgefield, Washington.

LG: That’s exactly it. And without sounding immodest, we kind of knew we were on the right track — but knowing that yourself doesn’t mean others will get it like you do. They may just go, ‘What are you talking about? You’re way off in some other universe that’s not connected to anything you’ve done before!.’ (both laugh)

Styx, 9 p.m., Sept. 15 at Agua Caliente Casino Resort & Spa, 32-250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage, 888-999-1995.