No ‘Grand Illusion’ – Styx, Joan Jett, and Tesla in New York

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No ‘Grand Illusion’ – Styx, Joan Jett, and Tesla in New York
Tommy Shaw of Styx (Photo: Joe Puccio)

One of the most anticipated package tours of the summer hit the Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater on Friday, June 29, as Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, Styx, and Tesla teamed up to provide an evening of familiar radio hits mixed with lesser-known, deep cuts.

While each act had its strong suits, Styx, sandwiched between openers Tesla and headliner Jett, ultimately owned the night.

Leading off with “Gone Gone Gone” off the band’s latest studio effort, The Mission, was an ambitious move, as the combination of coming from a concept record about a trek to Mars along with its uncharted status was risky. But it paid off beautifully as the tune succeeded in what it intended to do – bring the capacity crowd to its feet, where they remained for the duration of the frenetic 75 minute set. From there, the group delved into more classic material in the form of “Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)” and “The Grand Illusion,” the latter off the band’s 1977 seminal album of the same name.

Trading off on the majority of vocals, as usual, were keyboardist Lawrence Gowan (click here for RF‘s interview with Gowan) and longtime guitarist Tommy Shaw. Gowan, a part of the Styx equation for nearly 20 years now, has more than earned his stripes. Replacing the beloved Dennis DeYoung in 1999 was no simple feat for the Scottish-born Canadian. But his engaging renditions of previous DeYoung standards such as “Lady” and “Come Sail Away” virtually guaranteed that no one in the venue was missing the former frontman on this night. The band also threw in a fun version of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” in the midst of Gowan’s lively keyboard solo.

Styx’s Lawrence Gowan (l) and Shaw (Photo: Joe Puccio)

Original guitarist James “J.Y.” Young did his part on lead vocals during the gimmicky “Miss America,” a cornerstone of the band’s repertoire for over 40 years, while Ricky Phillips and Todd Sucherman, on bass and drums, respectively, maintained the beat beautifully for the Chicago-bred rockers.

Founding bassist Chuck Panozzo, who originally formed Styx with his late twin brother John and DeYoung, guested on a few songs as well — a gesture of respect for the talented musician who’s no longer a full time member of the group.

Perhaps the highlight of the performance was the inclusion of the popular “Mr. Roboto,” widely considered to be one of the most cherished tunes in the Styx catalogue. The song hadn’t been played in its entirety in 35 years until this tour so it was long overdue. And incredibly, it sounded as crisp as it did back in 1983 when it first appeared on the polarizing Kilroy Was Here album.

It’s not often that a band with the pedigree of Tesla is in the position of opening a show. But to their credit, the Northern California quintet still managed to play a rousing, energy-filled, nearly hour-long set. From the blistering “Hang Tough” to the infectious cover of the Five Man Electrical Band favorite “Signs” to the muscular “Modern Day Cowboy,” the whirlwind gig appropriately left the punctual early arrivals yearning for more.

Tesla’s Jeff Keith (Photo: Joe Puccio)

Singer Jeff Keith’s trademark raspy vocals were as gritty as ever, sonically identical to when they were first thrust on audiences in the mid-80s, especially on the power ballad “Love Song.” Guitarist Frank Hannon and bassist Brian Wheat, both criminally underrated at their craft, were a treat to watch, while second guitarist Dave Rude and drummer Troy Luccketta added a welcome ferociousness to the band. Tesla are staying in motion with the release of their ninth full-length studio album, Shock, this fall.

Jett powered the Blackhearts through an impressive variety of material that spanned the punk pioneer’s entire career. Commencing with the obscure “Victim of Circumstance,” she quickly maneuvered into the Runaways’ hit “Cherry Bomb.” The Gary Glitter-penned “Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)” and the defiant “Bad Reputation” followed before Jett slowed things down a bit with “Soulmates To Strangers” off of 2013’s Unvarnished and the ultra-catchy ditty “Fake Friends,” off the underappreciated 1983 Album. After a bit of a lull, the anthemic “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” revved the crowd up before the brilliant one-two punch of “Crimson and Clover” and the rebellious “I Hate Myself For Loving You.”

Whether you were looking for melodic metal, progressive compositions, or punk attitude, this was certainly a bill that had something for everyone.

Styx setlist:

  1. Gone Gone Gone
  2. Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)
  3. The Grand Illusion
  4. Lady
  5. Rockin’ The Paradise
  6. Radio Silence
  7. Miss America
  8. Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)
  9. Too Much Time On My Hands
  10. Khedive
  11. Bohemian Rhapsody
  12. Come Sail Away
  13. Mr. Roboto
  14. Renegade

Tesla setlist:

  1. I Wanna Live
  2. Hang Tough
  3. Heaven’s Trail (No Way Out)
  4. What You Give
  5. Signs
  6. Love Song
  7. Little Suzi
  8. Modern Day Cowboy

Joan Jett & the Blackhearts setlist:

  1. Victim Of Circumstance
  2. Cherry Bomb
  3. Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)
  4. Bad Reputation
  5. TMI
  6. Soulmates To Strangers
  7. You Drive Me Wild
  8. Light Of Day
  9. Fake Friends
  10. Love Is Pain
  11. A Hundred Feet Away
  12. Fragile
  13. Fetish
  14. Fresh Start
  15. Love Is All Around
  16. I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll
  17. Crimson And Clover
  18. I Hate Myself For Loving You
  19. Hard To Grow Up
  20. Make It Back
  21. Everyday People

Click here for Joan Jett & the Blackhearts/Styx/Tesla tour dates.