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Caught in the Act

Review by Gary Hill

I have to say that, while this CD set is entertaining, after seeing the current lineup of Styx live, and comparing it to this, I think they, ultimately are a stronger band without Dennis DeYoung than they would have been had he continued in the group. The truth is, too often, this feels less like a band effort and more like some Dennis DeYoung solo vehicle. Styx works far better as a band. I think that had this lineup stayed together it would have become less and less of a band and more DeYoung’s backup band. And, that’s not saying I don’t appreciate DeYoung’s talent or his contribution to Styx. I’m just saying that Styx is better as Styx and the DeYoung dominated stuff should have been relegated to a separate solo career. All that said, though, this is still well worth having as the only live document of that period of Styx.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 1 at

Track by Track Review
Disc 1
Music Time

This starts with a weird electronic bit and it’s a bit too theatric for my tastes. It seems more like a Dennis DeYoung solo piece than Styx to my ear. The recording feels overproduced to the point of not even feeling live. I just don’t like this on any level. They do turn it towards a harder rocking sound later, but this just seems kind of silly and overdone.

Mr. Roboto
While I’ve never been a huge fan of this track it is a catchy one, the arrangement here seems more towards a Dennis DeYoung dominated track. For my money, this is nowhere near as strong as the studio version, and that wasn’t that great to begin with. Talk about leading off with two of the weakest tracks on show. Of course, it should be noted that this one is obviously live. The vocal arrangement later in the track, though, should be praised.
Too Much Time On My Hands
This is more of a band production, but even here they turn it a bit too theatrical. It’s a definite improvement over the first two tracks, but still a little too silly at times.
I never thought there would be a situation where I thought this schmaltzy ballad would be a step in the right direction, but again, this is closer to the album version and that makes it a stronger piece of music than the two openers. It never really gets more over the top than the original was.

Now, this is more like it. This hard rocker works really well and is truly a band performance. It is by far the strongest cut to this point.

The Best of Times

There’s a piano solo that precedes this ballad. This gets pretty involved and rather powerful and it’s a good tune that works better than the earlier material. Again, it’s not one of my favorite Styx tunes, but compared to some of the earlier material, this is very strong.

Suite Madame Blue
Here’s one of the highlights of the whole set. This epic piece is very much a progressive rock number and it’s very strong here. It’s another case where the band participation makes for a stronger piece. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the piece was very strong to begin with. I’d have to say that this might actually be better than the studio rendition, though.
Disc 2
Rockin' The Paradise

Here’s another track that works pretty well. It’s a bit on the theatrical side, but the studio version was, too.

Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)
I’d have to say that the studio version of this piece was stronger than this one, but it’s still a great tune and one of the better ones here.
Miss America

Always one of Styx’ harder rocking tunes, I’d say that it’s even more aggressive in this live telling. It’s a real screamer and another highlight of the set.

Don't Let It End
Although this dramatic tune is a love-story based ballad, it’s one of the stronger numbers on show. Dennis DeYoung rules here, too, but it’s more of a band effort and works quite well.
Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)
Another track from The Grand Illusion album, this was always a hard rocking and very dramatic proggy number. It works especially well in this live telling. I like it a lot.
Crystal Ball
An acoustic guitar driven balladic piece, this is a dramatic and beautiful piece of music. This live telling is strong. They power it up in an epic ballad motif later. It has all the trademarks of being a Tommy Shaw penned piece and this is pretty close to the studio version, but perhaps a bit stronger. There is some tasty Dennis DeYoung keyboard work in place here.
Come Sail Away
They make this one a bit more theatric, but it still works well. I don’t know if I’d say I like this better than the studio version, but it’s very strong. There’s some great audience singalong, too. There’s some smoking hot soloing, both guitar and keyboard on this piece. It’s a real powerhouse and a great tune to close out the set.
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