Forty-six years after the release of Styx’s debut album, the classic rock band from Chicago has offers to play 200 shows a year. That means Styx, which released four triple-platinum albums from 1977 through 1981, can be selective.
“This band is more in demand than it’s been in 30 years,” original Styx member James “JY” Young says. “We can schedule shows around our world, as opposed to racing off to wherever we’re wanted.”
Styx and their classic-rock peers REO Speedwagon and former Eagles member Don Felder are bringing their “United We Rock" tour to the Cajundome in Lafayette on Wednesday.
“We’ve got a lot in common,” Young said of the triple bill. “We’ve seen a lot of each other on the road. It’s always comfortable to be out with these guys.”
The Styx lineup features Young and Tommy Shaw, another member of the band’s classic lineup. Rounding out the band are Lawrence Gowan, the singer-keyboardist who replaced Dennis DeYoung in 1999; bassist Ricky Phillips; and drummer Todd Sucherman. Chuck Panozzo, the original Styx bassist, sometimes makes guest appearances.
On Wednesday, fans can expect a concentrated selection of favorites. Styx’s best-selling album, 1977’s “The Grand Illusion” — featuring “Fooling Yourself,” “Come Sail Away” and “Miss America” — will get the most attention.
Styx also will play two songs from the band’s 2017 concept album, "The Mission." Set in the year 2033, the 43-minute opus chronicles a fictional mission to Mars.
“The amazing thing to me is it’s the best reviewed album we’re ever had,” Young said. “Glowing reviews on three or four continents for this record. Back in the 1970s, our manager was anti-press. He believed the press was a fickle bunch that wrote reviews of concerts they hadn’t even seen. He thought there was a New York bias, which there was and still is. But we’ve survived. We’re going strong here.”
In 2011, Shaw said Styx probably wouldn’t make another album. His prediction followed the disappointing reaction to Styx’s previous studio album, 2003’s “Cyclorama.”
“In 2003, there was no outlet for radio airplay for a record like that,” Young recalled. “Two or three giant conglomerates owned the bulk of the radio stations. Three people programmed the stations. Their research for classic bands said that 25- to 50-year-old males in their cars switched to sports or the news when they heard an unfamiliar song.”
Things had been different in the early days of Styx, Young added. “If radio wouldn’t play our records in Chicago, we could go to Detroit or Milwaukee or St. Louis or Columbus and get a different opinion. But later everything was nationalized and corporatized.”
"The Mission," released last summer in a less restrictive environment, debuted at No. 6 on Billboard’s Top Rock Albums chart and No. 11 on the Vinyl Albums chart.
Shaw’s move from Los Angeles to Nashville, Tennessee, helped inspire "The Mission," Young said. “Once Tommy was around all that Nashville creativity, he got the urge again.”
A grandly ambitious project recorded in Nashville over a two-year period, "The Mission" features the hallmarks of classic Styx, including soaring vocal harmonies.
“The planets aligned for ‘The Mission,’ ” Shaw said in a news release. “It’s our boldest, most emblematic album since ‘Pieces of Eight.’ ”
“When you do something that you love and it brings you joy to do it, it doesn’t feel like work,” Young said. “We’re missing some of the band’s original pieces, but the skill level has gone up, not down. Apart from being home with my wife of many years, this is what I’ve always loved to do the most. It’s a joyful thing to be coming to your town to do a concert.”
STYX/REO SPEEDWAGON/DON FELDER
WHEN: 7 p.m. Wednesday
WHERE: Cajundome, 444 Cajundome Blvd., Lafayette