Last night I went to see Tommy Shaw & Jack Blades. Once again, I did not have a ticket, but that didn’t turn out to be a problem (I took an educated guess). I’d planned to leave work at 6:30, but didn’t end up leaving until 6:45. I skipped my usual route (267->66->110) and took the GW Parkway, which didn’t have any backups and was much nicer. Plus I rolled into the Birchmere right on the dot of 7:30, and got a seat (in my preferred stage right location) right as the lights went down.
My educated guess that it wouldn’t sell out was a combination of the ticket price ($45) and lack of advertising. Tommy Shaw is one of the lead vocalists from Styx, Jack Blades is one of the lead vocalists from Night Ranger, and together they were the singers in Damn Yankees (with Ted Nugent on guitar). A fine history of great rock songs from the ’70’s-’90’s, plus their new covers album has some great songs from the 60’s and and 70’s. But did it say anything but Shaw/Blades in the Birchmere’s advertising? Nope. But a classic rock fan (like myself) would have found plenty to be happy about during the show.
They started off with a brief take on Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away”, trailing in to Seals & Crofts’ “Summer Breeze”. Decent enough, but the first highlight of the night was a version of Styx’s “Too Much Time On My Hands”, followed by “The Night Goes On” from their 1995 Hallucination CD, which sank without notice during the grunge era (Ted Nugent had declined from participating in a third Damn Yankees album). Speaking of them, an edgy “I Am A Rock” was followed by “High Enough” from the first Damn Yankees album. They did a number of covers next, the best of the bunch being Yes’ “Your Move”. Lead singer Jon Anderson of Yes has said “you captured the song so well” and I have to agree it’s an amazing version. “Rock In America” was the first Night Ranger song of the evening, which I appreciated. I’ve seen Styx a couple times, but not Night Ranger or Damn Yankees so those songs were treats for me. Another Simon and Garfunkel classic was followed by a Steely Dan number then “Down That Highway”, another Hallucination song. Another Night Ranger song, “Sister Christian” featured Tommy on lead vocals since Jack didn’t sing the original lead and he couldn’t hit those notes, but the audience loved it anyway. Another great Styx song, “Foolin’ Yourself” bled into “Love The One You’re With”, and they finished with Damn Yankees’ “Coming Of Age” and a great audience assisted cover of “California Dreamin'”. The encore was worth waiting for since it was all Styx: “Crystal Ball” and “Blue Collar Man”.