Review: Dennis DeYoung at the Pabst

Dennis DeYoung entertains and impresses with a night of (mostly) Styx classics at the Pabst.

Dennis DeYoung and the Music of Styx packed the Pabst Theater Friday night for nearly two hours of melodious time travel. Opening with popular Styx songs like “The Grand Illusion” and “Lady,” DeYoung immediately reminded concertgoers why they were there. His talent on the keyboard and vocals is exciting, theatrical and totally rock-and-roll.

DeYoung greeted the Pabst crowd by saying, “What is this? A French bistro?” and urging the audience to “get along…just for one night?” DeYoung shared stories about Wisconsin, making fun of the cold weather, our obsession with beer, and even Aaron Rodgers. “Aaron Rodgers isn’t human,” Bears-fan DeYoung alleged, earning a few “boos” from the audience.

Sporting bright red, pleather shoes, DeYoung scuffed the stage with some crafty foot work. The shoes really shined in classics like “Mr. Roboto,” where DeYoung donned a robot mask and performed some bionic dance moves. The audience was happy to join in.

The band was as impressive as DeYoung, with stellar guitar and vocals by Alaskan native, August Zadra, who sang several songs throughout the show, including encore song “Renegade.” Also on lead guitar and impressive acoustics was Jimmy Leahey. Zadra and Leahey seemed to have the most fun on stage – leaning off each other for support, and wearing non-stop grins. DeYoung’s wife Suzanne also joined him on stage for background vocals.

DeYoung performed “Desert Moon” off one of his recent albums – the only non-Styx song performed all night. It featured a beautiful guitar solo by Leahey, and reminded the audience that DeYoung’s not losing it. His strong vibrato, electric stage presence, killer footwork, and expert piano-playing skills are anything but aged.

“That’s right. You payed your money, dammit,” he joked before playing the night’s final song, “Come Sail Away.” DeYoung will be finishing up this leg of his tour in Florida, the state that ties Wisconsin for amount of Styx fans.