Preview: Arena-rock titans Boston, Kansas and Styx all hit Pittsburgh on the same weekend
Take yourself back to 1977 -- whether you're old enough or not -- and imagine Boston, Kansas and Styx all playing here on the same weekend.
There would be rejoicing in the streets, a frantic scramble for tickets and then a frightening stampede into the Arena to get the best spot to stand -- ah, festival seating.
Here we are, four decades later, and three of the biggest arena-rock bands of that era are visiting within two days -- none of them in the arena.
Kansas, the most progressive of the trio, is playing the 900-plus capacity Carnegie Library of Homestead.
Boston, which played back-to-back nights at the Civic Arena in 1987, will headline the 5,500-capacity Stage AE Outdoors.
Styx, which plays here almost annually, will rock the crowd for free after the Pirates game at PNC Park. That's just a stone's throw away from where Styx played its first show in Pittsburgh, a Three Rivers Stadium bill with Kansas in 1975 opening for Bachman Turner Overdrive.
All three bands are damaged goods, in one way or another, which accounts for these smaller or bargain bookings. Styx and Boston are both missing their lead singers. In fact, Boston has only one original member, so it's the Tom Scholz Show. Kansas has its original frontman, Steve Walsh, but is down a few key players with the absence of guitarist Kerry Livgren and violinist Robby Steinhardt.
We haven't seen Boston here since 2003, so that one's unpredictable. Recent appearances by Kansas and Styx, though, have shown both bands to be pretty tight. Keep in mind that Styx will playing on a makeshift stage pulled out behind second base, so this is not the big Grand Illusion.
Then again, it's not 1977.
Formed: Some of the musicians who played on the debut album go back to 1970 together. Tom Scholz and Brad Delp were signed to Epic as Boston and released their debut in 1976.
Sound: Just another band out of Boston ... but with a high-voltage space-rock sound masterminded by guitarist/songwriter/MIT engineer Tom Scholz.
Early tour mates: Blue Oyster Cult, Foghat.
First Pittsburgh show: April 27, 1977, at the Civic Arena.
Breakout song: "More Than a Feeling" (1976).
RS Record Guide (1983) grade of first album: • • • (out of 5).
Total albums: 5.
Top 40 hits: 8.
Highest charting album: "Don't Look Back" (1978) and "Third Stage" (1986) hit No. 1.
Highest charting single: "Amanda" went No. 1 in 1986.
Total members: 20.
Last album: "Corporate America" (2002).
Who's left? Tom Scholz is the only member remaining from the 1976 debut. Singer Brad Delp departed for a while in the early '90s then committed suicide in 2007.
Famously covered by: 'N Sync covered "More Than a Feeling" on its European debut album. Also, Nirvana's Kurt Cobain acknowledged the song's similarity to "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by occasionally breaking into "More Than a Feeling."
Trivia: The song "Rock and Roll Band" seems to be the story of the band, but it's not. Mr. Scholz began writing the song in the early '70s, and the opening lines "Well, we were just another band out of Boston/On the road and trying to make ends meet/Playing all the bars and sleeping in our cars" never really applied to Boston.
Formed: Core members started playing together in Chicago as kids in the early '60s, and became Styx in 1972.
Sound: "Teenage American response to the flashy British art-rock" (Rolling Stone)
First Pittsburgh show: Sept. 30, 1973 at the White Elephant Club in White Oak.
Breakout song: "Lady" (1974).
RS Record Guide grade of first album: •
Total albums: 15.
Top 40 singles: 16.
Highest charting album: "Paradise Theater" went No. 1 in 1981.
Highest charting single: "Babe" went No. 1 in 1979.
Total members: 11.
Last album: "Big Bang Theory" (2005).
Famously covered by: Cartman, a huge Styx fan, sings "Come Sail Away" in a "South Park" episode. Adam Sandler, who counts Styx as his favorite band, has talked about it in his movies.
Who's left? James Young is the only remaining member from the 1972 debut album. Tommy Shaw arrived in 1976 for the sixth album, "Crystal Ball." Singer Dennis DeYoung left for a solo career in 1984, returned for a while in the '90s and has been out since 1999. The bio on the Styx website has no mention of Dennis DeYoung ever being in the band.
Trivia: "Renegade" has pumped up Steelers crowds since Jan. 5, 2002, when the Steelers were in the midst of playoff collapse against the Browns. The song came on, the crowd got crazy and the Steelers ended up erasing a 24-7 deficit to win the game. The following season Styx performed the national anthem, and "Renegade" accompanied a video of hard-hitting highlights.
Formed: The core musicians started playing together in Topeka, Kan., in 1970 and settled upon the Kansas lineup in 1973.
Sound: British-influenced prog-rock with Midwest boogie -- plus fiddle.
Early tour mates: Kinks, Queen and Mott the Hoople.
First Pittsburgh show: Feb. 25, 1975, at the Stanley Theater with Styx.
Breakout song: "Carry On My Wayward Son" (1976).
RS Record Guide grade of first album: • • •
Total albums: 14.
Top 40 hits: 7.
Highest charting album: "Point of Know Return" went No. 4 in 1977.
Highest charting single: "Dust in the Wind" hit No. 6 in 1978.
Total members: 11.
Last album: "Somewhere to Elsewhere" (2000).
Who's left? Singer Steve Walsh, guitarist Rich Williams and drummer Phil Ehart remain from the debut album lineup. Bassist Billy Greer has been with the band since 1985, and guitarist/violinist David Ragsdale joined in 1991, but left from 1997 to 2006 when Robby Steinhardt rejoined the band.
Famously covered by: Will Ferrell sang "Dust in the Wind" in the movie "Old School."
Trivia: Kansas recorded its breakout album, "Leftoverture," in Bogalusa, La., at The Studio in the Country. Kerry Livgren described there being gators in front and armadillos running into the control room.
First Published August 9, 2012 12:00 am