Summertime always has a way of bringing around some of the best concerts you never expect to see together. After last year’s bash of summer shows, I wondered how could promoters top it for 2018. When Live Nation Entertainment announced on February 13th that the legendary rock bands of Styx, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, and Tesla would be touring together, I had my answer. Even better, the tour was coming through Tampa, FL at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre on June 17th. I was beyond excited and felt very fortunate to cover the show for DreadMusicReview.
The MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre, which is an outdoor, covered venue for most of the seats, is what you expect it to be in June; hot and muggy. But, the heat wasn’t keeping anyone away as it was near sold-out show. This was the fourth time I had the opportunity to cover Styx and each time they bring in a crowd full of energy and excitement. First up though was a band I’ve loved since I heard their very first single, Tesla. The band from Sacramento, CA was formed by Brian Wheat and Frank Hannon started under the name of Earthshaker in 1981. They later changed their name to City Kidd. By the time they were recording ‘Mechanical Resonance’ the band changed their name to Tesla after the inventor and engineer Nikola Tesla. The first single released was “Modern Day Cowboy” which generated great success for the band peaking at #35 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Tracks. The album was released in 1986 and peaked at #32 in Billboard’s Top 200 and launched their career. The album was certified Platinum. Their followup album ‘The Great Radio Controversy’, titled after the controversy that Nikola Tesla was the true inventor of the radio over Gugelielmo Marconi, was released in 1989. Three singles were released from the album, but it was their ballad “Love Song” that had the highest ranking at #7 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Tracks. Their second studio album was certified double Platinum. In 1990 when the band was supporting Motley Crue on the ‘Dr. Feelgood’ tour, they decided to perform a small number of acoustic shows and released one as a live album known as the ‘Five Man Acoustical Jam’. The live performance was all acoustic versions of songs from the first two albums plus some cover tunes. Their cover of the song “Signs” originally done by the Five Man Electric Band peaked at #2 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks and the album peaked at #12 on the Billboard Top 200. Their third studio album ‘Psychotic Supper’ was released in 1991 and was certified Platinum and their fourth studio album ‘Bust a Nut’ was released in 1994 and was certified Gold. The band disbanded after this point but returned back in 2000 and went on to release four more studio albums and one more acoustic album. The band plans on releasing a new album in 2019. Telsa is Jeff Keith (vocals), Frank Hannon (guitar), Brian Wheat (bass), Troy Luccketta (drums), and Dave Rude (guitar).
When Tesla hit the stage with the sun still shining high, the crowd stood up and cheered. Even I was cheering to finally see and photograph one of my favorite rock bands from my youth. They opened up with “I Wanna Live” from their 2008 album ‘Forever More’. The sounded like they haven’t lost a step. Jeff’s vocals were solid, Frank, Brian, and Dave were jamming away, and Troy (who we could barely see from the pit) drummed his heart out. When they followed with “Hang Tough” from ‘The Great Radio Controversy’, I felt chills with how perfect it sounded. Tesla was rocking hard and the audience was loving it. They continued with “Heaven’s Trail (No Way Out)” from the same album. Tesla turned it up when they performed “Signs” and “Love Song” that had the entire amphitheatre singing along with them. They closed out their set with “Modern Day Cowboy” which sounded just as good as they did when they first released it. I’m looking forward to them coming back to Orlando in February 2019.
Next up was Joan Jett & The Blackhearts. Joan Jett started her career as part of The Runaways in 1975. The band produced five studio albums until they disbanded in 1979. She started off a solo career releasing a self-titled album before it was re-released with the title ‘Bad Reputation’. She formed Joan Jett & The Blackhearts shortly after and released ‘I Love Rock ‘n Roll’ in 1981. The album peaked at #2 on the Billboard Top 200 and was certified Platinum. The band went on to release 10 additional studio albums. Joan Jett continued to release solo records and also appeared in multiple movies and television shows while also producing records for other artists. Their music has also been used in multiple movies and even sporting events.
The sun was mostly down and the stage went dark when Joan Jett & The Blackhearts took the stage. All eyes were on the stage when the lights popped on and they started off with “Bad Reputation”. Joan Jett & The Blackhearts sounded great and had beautiful lighting on stage. They followed up with The Runaways’ song “Cherry Bomb” which had gotten a lot of attention from its appearance in the movie and soundtrack for Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy. Joan had the crowd singing back to her with “Do You Want To Touch Me (Oh Yeah)” from her self-titled album. The crowd was riled up when they played “Light of Day” which was featured in the movie Light of Day that Joan Jett starred in. But, of course, the crowd was really rocking when they performed “I Love Rock ‘n Roll”. Joan Jett & The Blackhearts finished up with “I Hate Myself for Loving You” and “Everyday People” a cover of the song from Sly and the Family Stone. Joan Jett & The Blackhearts put on an excellent performance that night.
Finally, the band everyone was waiting for was ready to take the stage. It had been 11 months since Styx was last in Tampa on the United We Rock tour with REO Speedwagon and Don Felder. Unlike that day, the weather was absolutely beautiful at night and no rain anywhere in the forecast. The band that formed in Chicago, IL back in 1972 has been rocking stages for 46 years. And even though they had their ups and downs throughout their career, there are very few active bands who can boast such success. Styx has released 16 studio albums with 4 of them being consecutive multi-platinum albums, 16 top 40 singles in which 8 of those were in the top 10 on the Billboard rankings. ‘The Mission’, ranked in at #6 on Billboard’s Top Rock Albums in the first week of release. Styx loves to tour and does nearly 100 shows a year. Styx is Tommy Shaw (vocals, guitar), Lawrence Gowan (vocals, keyboards), James “J.Y.” Young (lead guitar, vocals), Ricky Phillips (bass), and Todd Sucherman (drums).
The lights dropped once again and a few lights dimly lit the stage showing a projector with a picture of Earth on it. Music began to play as the members of Styx started to come on stage from the back standing on top of the riser before coming down to the stage and from the sides. Styx then made their way into “Gone Gone Gone” from ‘The Mission’ with Lawrence on vocals. The more I hear this song and watch Styx perform it live, the more I love it. It’s a catchy song with a great beat and it’s fun to sing. Tommy took over on vocals to perform both “Blue Collar Man” and “The Grand Illusion”. These are two classic Styx songs that all Styx fans know and love. The crowd was singing along with every lyric. Lawrence took over on vocals to perform “Lady”, another Styx classic.
The majority of Styx’s shows pretty much run the same format and set list. This evening though they started to mix it up a bit. They played “Light Up” from their 1975 album ‘Equinox’, which is a very uplifting and fun song. They followed that up with “Rockin’ The Paradise” another classic fast-paced, fun to sing along, song. The band switched gears slowing it down with “Radio Silence” from ‘The Mission’. Thought it’s a slower song, it has such powerful music and lyrics. And with all of Styx singing the chorus in harmony is beautiful to hear. Then, J.Y. got to take lead performing “Miss America”. I always enjoy this performance because he has a great singing voice. The song fits his vocals and emphasis he puts behind it when he sings.
Styx mixed it up again performing “The Outpost” from ‘The Mission’. This is another song I’ve gotten to like the more I hear it played. It starts off as a softer paced song and then rips into a stronger upbeat song. Tommy took back the vocals to perform “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)” from ‘The Grand Illusion’. That album was released 41 years ago in July and Styx took the time to thank the crowd for their support with especially how successful that album was for them. Tommy continued on vocals with “Too Much Time on My Hands”. From that point, Lawrence took bad the vocals for the remainder of the set first by playing his piano solo titled “Khedive” from ‘The Mission’. Then he tested the fans’ knowledge of music performing a few songs to get the crowd to sing along, which included “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen. Styx finished the off their set with the most uplifting song they have, “Come Sail Away” also from ‘The Grand Illusion’.
And then the unbelievable happened, something I thought I would never see from Styx again. When they came back out to do their encore, the band started into the first few notes of “Mr. Roboto” from the 1983 album ‘Kilroy Was Here’. The audience were all on their feet, screaming and cheering, and seemed to be just as surprised. Lawrence did a wonderful job performing the song and it was such a pleasure to hear it performed live. Tommy wrapped up the show with “The Renegade” from the 1978 album ‘Pieces of Eight’.
Once again, Styx performed a phenomenal set, leaving the crowd wanting more. As they took their final bow, everyone was providing them with a standing ovation. Overall, this was an excellent combination of rock legends. I look forward to see what Styx does next year to top this performance.