What do you get when you combine incredible music, amazing talent, skinny jeans, and apparent eternal youth? A stunningly awesome performance by the legendary rock band Styx. Find out why seeing Styx in concert is an absolute must for anyone, and why Lead Vocalist and Keyboardist Lawrence Gowan is a truly amazing guy who exudes energy and agelessness.
The Best of Times
The legendary and age-defying rock group Styx put on an incredible sold out show, performing to a completely enthralled audience of all ages at the Hard Rock Rocksino in Northfield, Ohio towards the end of 2016. To say that the show was phenomenal is quite an understatement. The Styx band members (Lead Vocalist and Guitarist Tommy Shaw, Lead Vocalist and Keyboardist Lawrence Gowan, Lead Guitarist James “JY” Young, Drummer Todd Sucherman, Bassist Ricky Phillips, and with a special appearance by Original Bassist Chuck Panozzo) sang and played their hearts out, harmonizing like the true masters that they are. The band began the show in explosive style with hits such as The Grand Illusion, Too Much Time on My Hands, Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man), and Lady, while ending the night on a high with Come Sail Away and Renegade. Intermixed throughout the night, the guys interacted with the audience, kept us all laughing, singing, and dancing, and even played some well-loved covers like Elton John’s Rocket Man and Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. What a great rock show!
The Men of Miracles
Forget the music for a second. Not only did the Styx guys sound great, they looked fantastic. The guys completely rocked the stage, perfectly wore skinny jeans, had amazing hair and physiques, and the band has been playing since 1972 (you do the math)! Lawrence Gowan in particular had the energy of a guy in his 20s. With his rotating keyboards, which he jumped on top of at one point, Lawrence was the embodiment of entertainment by dancing and jumping all over the stage. These guys really seemed to defy age on the stage that night. Styx is a true and classic rock band that made the audience feel energized and alive. What is their secret? Find out a few thoughts in my interview with Lawrence Gowan below.
The Chat with Lawrence Gowan
The other day, I was extremely fortunate to have a terrific phone conversation with Lead Vocalist and Keyboardist Lawrence Gowan while Styx was in Reno, Nevada for a performance. Originally from Scotland and currently residing in Toronto, Lawrence experienced a very successful solo career before joining Styx 18 years ago. Check out the interview, where Lawrence talks about how music keeps us youthful and energized, and why everyone should be going to concerts!
Regarding the Styx concert in November 2016 in the Cleveland area, the band was phenomenal and the audience loved the show. You, especially, were so alive on stage, so vibrant and fun. In addition to the fantastic singing and playing, we loved your hair, your shoes, your jeans, everything. How do you have so much youthful energy?
[Laughter] I guess it’s because I still consider myself to be in my youth!
Good answer. You are!
Honestly, I think there is some youthful vitality that comes along with playing rock music. I really think it’s ageless.
Along with the question of youth, one of my biggest pet peeves is where I hear people say, “I’m old.” In or out of the rock world, with people’s desire to feel youthful, what advice do you have?
Music has an innate ability to affect your life in very, very positive ways. It doesn’t matter on what end of the financial spectrum you’re in, where you reside, or what your belief system happens to be, music has this fantastic ability. You can derive endless benefits from staying close to music, syncing into it every day, and letting it affect your life.
The benefits are innumerable and far reaching. This is largely why we are still alive as a band and why people respond so strongly to us. People of all ages. Generally speaking, half the audience is usually under 30 years of age at the shows, and they weren’t even born when some of the biggest classic rock records were recorded. It’s really invigorating to play in front of an audience like that.
And, it’s invigorating to be a part of the audience. At your Cleveland show, a very conservative looking man in the audience directly in front of us was going absolutely wild: singing and playing the air guitar. Your music brought out the best in him. It was very fun to see!
It’s great that you noticed that because sometimes I get the feeling that the reawakening of a musical fixation can sometimes happen when somebody comes to a show who might remember liking the band when they were 20. They wind up going to the concert, and then they get infected by the music all over again. It reawakens the sense of connection that they feel, and they forget how conservatively dressed they are or whatever it might be.
I agree. If I have no other message in life, it’s that people need to see more concerts. Concerts make you feel invigorated and alive!
You are preaching to the long-ago-converted-choir! I’ve said that so often. Great example: There are four ladies who have shown up at five of our shows in the last two weeks, including Las Vegas, Carmel, Pasadena, Scottsdale, Anaheim, and they’ll be at the LA show. They’re in the first few rows and have special outfits made for each show. The degree of attention that they’ve given to this event in their lives is amazing. I met them one night and they said, “You must think we’re crazy.” No, I don’t think they’re crazy!
The greatest form of entertainment that I’ve even witnessed in my life is a great rock show. I remember the ecstatic feeling I had in seeing Elton John in 1974 or seeing Yes, Genesis, Peter Gabriel, Pink Floyd, Paul McCartney, and The Rolling Stones. I saw the Stones a couple of years ago. Mick Jagger is the youngest 73 year old I’ve ever seen on stage because when the show starts, he’s 33 years old or younger. He’s living!
At a great rock show, as I’m laying these out to you, I’m envisioning where I was in the audience, how the moment affected my life and changed the course of my thinking. So, there’s something there that I can’t quite distill into a formula; I just know that it works, and I can understand how excited people get!
Do you ever see concerts now?
I certainly do! My son is a drummer in a metal band (Vesperia, which won best metal band at the largest metal festival). He turned me on to this whole metal world, so I’ve gone to a lot of the concerts in Toronto when I have an odd day off. I absolutely love going to shows. At the metal shows, the whole mosh pit thing and the level of musicianship is staggering.
But, there is stuff I discover, too. Something new comes along that really grabs me. I haven’t seen them live yet, but I want to see Tame Impala from Australia, Royal Blood from England, and BØRNS from Michigan. There are lots of shows that I want to see, but Styx is playing in over 100 shows this year, so I might only get to a couple of concerts.
Do you like traveling the country and being on tour?
Yes, I really do. Other than the rigors of having to go through airports occasionally, there isn’t much that I don’t really enjoy. I’ve seen America to such a great degree, and other countries around the world. There’s no country that I’ve gone to that I haven’t enjoyed. It’s a very fortunate existence.
Aside from practicing, playing, and doing interviews, what do you do with your time on the road?
If there is an art gallery within walking distance of the hotel, I’ll go to that for sure. I like absorbing everything I can about a particular city. I can recall more about what I did throughout the day than I can about the actual concert because that is more of an ecstatic kind of experience that is all compressed into one, great feeling.
I also do about a half hour of yoga in my hotel room just to get my body ready for any dumb challenges I might throw at it on stage that night at the spur of the moment. Then I’ll play the piano in my room. By mid-afternoon, it’s time for the sound check, and we begin to get focused on what will happen that night.
In Cleveland, I remember visiting the Arcade, walking through Public Square and seeing the ice skating rink and the sculptures that are part of the war memorial. I also discovered an alley way [East 4th Street] by the House of Blues and there was a really good coffee place there [Erie Island Coffee Co.].
Cleveland is really underrated, and I’m glad that the city received some very positive attention this past year.
I’ve said that for years. Cleveland and Pittsburgh are two very underrated cities. I always feel close to the epicenter of rock in Cleveland. Prior to joining Styx, in my solo days in 1985, I opened a show in Cleveland for Tears for Fears. Then, WMMS (100.7 FM) took one of my songs, even though it wasn’t released in America, and it went into the top 20 on their station. I did an afternoon show with WMMS called The Coffee Break, a series of live shows at noon at a club in town. The song was A Criminal Mind, and now we play a Styx version at many of the shows. I’ve always had a great time in Cleveland and I always look forward to seeing it on the itinerary.
Also, in 2006 Styx made a DVD with the Contemporary Youth Orchestra at Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio with Liza Grossman as the conductor. We ended up working with her a lot in other cities; she is a great conductor and we met her in your city!
What do you have to say about your home town of Toronto?
Musically, it’s extremely active and it always has been. That’s one of the reasons why I love living there. I have great memories of playing at pretty much every venue there over the years. It’s a great waterfront city, so it has that in common with Cleveland, as far as it being a Great Lake City. I don’t think you’ll ever run out of things to do.
Outside of music, what do you do for fun or adventure?
Well, that has changed over the years. I used to be very active in playing hockey. I had to cut way, way back on that, so now there is very little time away from music. Even when I’m in Toronto, I have a studio there, so I work on some solo things. In the last couple of years, I’ve begun to walk my dog, and I enjoy that a lot. I have a very ferocious Bichon Frise. [Laughter] They’re the cutest, little dogs, all white, and look like little polar bears. They are notoriously friendly.
You embody youth, and you talk about how music awakens and enlivens people, which is such an important message. And, I loved what you just said, that there is very little time away from music. What a great thing to be able to say, that you have so much involvement in music.
Music is as much of a hobby and vacation as it is my occupation. It really occupies every day to some degree, and I want to keep it that way!