Wednesday, Feb 06 2013 05:31 PM

SCOTT COX: Styx -- yes, Styx! -- good lesson for today's pups

By The Bakersfield Californian

I took my wife to see Styx the other night, which is totally different from saying that I went to see Styx the other night.

The truth is, I've never been a huge Styx fan, but my wife has been for several decades, and it was her birthday, so off to the Fox we went.

We made it to our (excellent) seats about 10 minutes into the opening band's set. They were a strikingly generic hair band. I couldn't help thinking that they looked and sounded more like a "Saturday Night Live" skit about a rock band than an actual rock band. Not my cup of tea, but hey, my wife seemed to be having a good birthday. So far so good. Plus, I was fresh off a couple of beverages at the Padre before the show, so I was feeling pretty open-minded.

A few minutes after they left the stage came that favorite concert moment: when the band members dramatically take their places in the dark, and everybody braces for the first notes from an epic rock band. "Too Much Time on My Hands." Woo!

Now, I'm not generally given to spontaneous fits of nostalgia, but I was rocketed back to 1979 in a heartbeat. For a moment there I could feel my hair growing back. Again, I was there as an observer more than a fan, but if there's one thing I love, it's musicianship, and Styx has that in spades. Anybody who can achieve that level of virtuosity can hold my attention almost indefinitely.

On the way home, I realized that I really miss album-oriented rock. Kids today have little or no concept of what that means: Entire groups of songs written and performed to be played together.

Nowadays, people just download whatever is the big hit of the day. These bands from the album era were better because they had to be. Albums these days are generally just a bunch of filler surrounding the attempted "hit" song.

The other thing that left me feeling pretty smug was the talent of the musicians of "my" era. Every generation thinks that the bands they listened to were the best, but in my case, I can back that statement up. There aren't a whole lot of modern musicians with the chops that I heard the other night from a bunch of old-timers. These guys have been doing this for a while now, and they still bring a very impressive degree of energy and showmanship to the stage every night. They could easily retire, and live like sultans on the income from their publishing alone, but they're out there on the road, tearing it up on stages all over the world. I say bravo, Styx.

Upon further review, I'm really glad I went. The band was great, the sound crew did a stellar job, which they always seem to do at the Fox. My wife had a great birthday, and I learned to be less snotty about '70s prog-rock. Mostly I got a reminder of what real music sounds like. Come to think of it, Styx would've made the Super Bowl halftime show infinitely better, but these days we don't want music; we want strippers backed by lots of bass, dancing and lasers.

I didn't spot anyone under 30 at this show, so maybe the young people are all just unaware. Their loss. But, hey: The next time an actual band comes to town, kidnap them and take them. Who knows, maybe we can bring back album rock. A guy can dream.

Now I'm off to see if Pink Floyd is still touring.

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