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Faces and voices may change, but REO, Styx remain
March 2, 2010
GateHouse News Service

by Phil Davidson

Hard to believe, but REO Speedwagon - the group, the concept, the entity - has been around for 40 years, give or take, and front man Kevin Cronin has been belting out the band’s unmistakable power ballads for 35 of them. Cronin’s longevity is impressive particularly because 14 other members of REO have come and gone during that time. Rock ’n’ roll might as well be counted in dog years because even a 5-year run is respectable when your product is up against the ever-shifting winds of popularity. During a recent telephone interview, Cronin said there’s something unique about being able to see a band onstage with its core members intact - founding keyboardist Neal Doughty continues to work the synths opposite Bruce Hall, the band’s bassist for more than three decades. “It does show up on stage,” Cronin said of watching hits such as “Keep on Loving You” performed by the musicians who wrote them. “There’s a special vibe there.” That’s undeniable. Who would rather watch a cover band than the real thing? But Styx drummer Todd Sucherman can make you think twice about that tenet. A child prodigy, Sucherman was a studio player trained in jazz and symphonic works before he was asked to join Styx full time in 1996 - a full 17 years after “Babe” reached No. 1 on the U.S. charts. Sucherman, Modern Drummer Magazine’s Rock Drummer of the Year for 2009, knows Styx’s music so well that even founding members occasionally look to him for guidance on certain songs. It raises the philosophical question of what constitutes the optimal live music experience: listening to an artist who introduced a song and made it popular, or listening to the best rendition of a song, no matter who performs it? Sucherman points out that his job is be loyal to the original Styx sound, not to try to add his embellishments. “My ego isn’t so big that I try and bring my own taste to the songs,” he said during a recent phone interview. The relativity aspect of music is even more pronounced when you consider that Styx’s most recognizable member, front man Dennis DeYoung, is no longer with the band, but tours as a solo artist “performing the music of Styx,” which he’s contractually obligated to disclaim. Sucherman said he doesn’t see his band as competing with De-Young’s. “There’s room for both of us,” he said. “That can only be a good thing for everybody.” REO diehards who wore out their copies of 1980’s “High Infidelity” can expect a revival. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the landmark album - it sold more than 9 million copies - and Cronin promised to play a healthy dose of its contents. “It was that shared experience that almost made the record an accidental concept album,” he said. “At the time, we were the perennial underdog. The stars were lined up.”

Review: REO Speedwagon, Styx deliver tight sets at PCCC
March 2, 2010

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