DeYoung brings back classics to kick off Alive at Five series

Opening the 10-show Alive at Five season on Thursday before a huge crowd, Dennis DeYoung came close

Opening the 10-show Alive at Five season on Thursday before a huge crowd, Dennis DeYoung promised to play all of the songs he wrote and sang with Styx, the Chicago arena-rock band he led from the early 1960s (under other names then) through the 1990s, when his cohorts fired him. He came close enough to thrill the classic-rock audience with classic-rock songs cranked out with classic-rock bombast.

Generic was good. The appeal of the songs was still there, exciting fans of all ages, and the soaring tenor voice was still there, nailing the high notes with little strain.

Trimmed in black under a silver Brillo ’do that dozens of PBS fund drives have made ubiquitous, DeYoung basked in the vast fanfare of “Grand Illusion” to start. Back-loaded with a pompous coda of keyboard cheese, it announced his intention not to back down from the gooey grandeur of the hit-record originals. Next, “Lady” drew instant applause, doing what most songs did through DeYoung’s 90-minute show. It grew from a quiet, sparsely arranged launching pad to carry DeYoung’s voice into the melody, then rocketed for the cheap seats — actually, all seats were free — with a muscular weave of two guitars and two keyboards while bass and drums slammed and two female singers (one DeYoung’s wife of 38 years, Suzanne) sweetened the lyrics.

DeYoung slowed things occasionally: “Desert Moon” was the first ballad, four songs in, and the tender “Babe” was (still) the best later on. But most songs cruised at mid-tempo as DeYoung paid close attention to the clarity of the words and his band played everything with the glib assurance of the old pros they clearly were. “Show Me the Way” stood out for its crystalline a cappella majesty, and two songs later, “Mr. Roboto” revved the band and crowd into a full-on rock ’n’ roll rush, DeYoung brandishing (but not donning) a metal mask to campy effect while the crowd roared the chorus even before he urged them to.

He introduced “100 Years from Now” by proudly announcing that at 61, it had just brought him a No. 1 hit in the province of Quebec; earlier, he wouldn’t have needed any such caveats. The string of huge hits that led to the mock-encore climax (they didn’t bother to leave and return) of “Come Sail Away” was beautifully paced and performed, offering all the uplift any oldies show could.

The Great Barrington roots-rock trio Melodrome made many Albany friends by serving up new but classic-rock-sounding high-impact songs, built on a sturdy blues-rock frame and beefed up with funk, Brit-pop and southern rock accessories. Their hourlong opener passed quickly, with good energy and spirit infusing their fairly generic songs, most from their “The Sidewalk Ends” album. Solid, confident and committed to their 1970s roots, they generated the most force with the bitter “I Want You Gone” kiss-off, stretched with a well-focused wah-wah guitar solo, and the Zeppelin crunch of “Sex Gas and Fuel” — punched out as if eager to alter the fact that two of those are clearly in short supply these days.

Reach Michael Hochanadel at [email protected]

Categories: Life and Arts

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