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Styx: The Grand Illusion / Pieces of Eight Live(2010)
Filmed on November 9, 2010 at the historic Orpheum Theater in Memphis, TN, Styx performs their classic multi-platinum seventies albums “The Grand Illusion” and “Pieces Of Eight” live in their entirety for the first time.
For more about Styx: The Grand Illusion / Pieces of Eight Live and the Styx: The Grand Illusion / Pieces of Eight Live Blu-ray release, see Styx: The Grand Illusion / Pieces of Eight Live Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on February 24, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Tommy Shaw, James "JY" Young, Lawrence Gowan, Todd Sucherman, Ricky Phillips, Chuck Panozzo
» See full cast & crew
Styx: The Grand Illusion / Pieces of Eight Live Blu-ray Review
Two classic late seventies albums are performed live.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, February 24, 2012
A&M Records might be thought of as the first "indie" label. Started by trumpeter Herb Alpert and his partner Jerry Moss in Alpert's garage back in the early sixties, A&M was initially not much more than a vehicle for Alpert to trumpet (sorry) his own wares. With the unexpected global success of "The Lonely Bull" the partners realized they had a viable business opportunity on their hands and they rather quickly built A&M into a powerhouse label. By the mid- to late sixties, they were incredibly successful, a success due largely to Alpert's own sensational sales with The Tijuana Brass, but also to the similar phenomenal sales of Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66 (in fact many consumers assumed Sergio was the "M" of A&M in those days) and, to a lesser extent, Julius Wechter & The Baja Marimba Band (Julius did double duty with the Brass and also wrote one of the Brass' most famous songs, "Spanish Flea"). But Jerry Moss especially knew that the label couldn't survive with strictly MOR (middle of the road, as "Adult Contemporary" was termed in those days) fare, and starting in the late sixties, the label really started branching out by signing a number of high profile rock artists. Even so, A&M continued to be incredibly successful with "easy listening" artists like their major early seventies success story, Carpenters. Carpenters (the brother-sister team became apopleptic if anyone included a definite article before their name) had started to fade somewhat by the mid-seventies, but in 1975 A&M had signed a band who had had recent (if belated) success with their single "Lady" which charted years after its original release on tiny label (and true indie) Wooden Nickel Records. Styx slowly built their reputation over the next two years with some high charting albums and decent selling singles until they achieved a breakthrough of sorts in 1977 with The Grand Illusion. A year later they had another significant hit on their hands with Pieces of Eight, and along with The Police laid claim to being one of A&M's primary success stories of that era.
To the plangent pre-recorded strains of Richard Wagner, this Styx live concert opens with a Star Wars-esque crawl creeping up the giant screen upstage of the performing area, which takes us back to the supposed halcyon days of 1977, the year in fact of both Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. A nicely shot widescreen short then begins, showing a kid coming into his bedroom, sorting through his albums (as in long playing records), and then sticking a Styx record on his turntable. He puts on his headphones, and then suddenly the band is onstage, launching into The Grand Illusion. However, belying the nostalgia and calls back to a supposedly golden age is a troubling example of that old adage that you can't go home again: this Styx is minus Dennis DeYoung.
The rest of this Memphis, Tennessee shot concert plays out with a minimum of fuss and bother, and even in fact a relative lack of glitz and glamour, aside from the huge projection screen which is filled with a variety of fun imagery. Instead the band simply plays through their two huge selling albums without a lot of talk or sidebars. In fact, about the only pauses here are at the "ends of sides," when the widescreen footage comes on showing the stylus coming to the end of the side, and the band exhorts the crowd as to what they should do. "Flip it over!" is the massed reply.
What's interesting about this concert—aside from the somewhat unusual approach of performing two albums live—is how the benefit of perspective has cast new light on Styx's achievements. It's probably no big surprise to state that Styx in their heyday were often thought of as a sort of lightweight Yes, and that tendency can't be completely evaded here. However, it's some of their lesser known material on display here that actually holds up surprisingly well and still manages to capture some of the magic of old, notably their moody take on "Man in the Wilderness". And even their minor hit "Blue Collar Man" still sounds refreshing, albeit kind of surprisingly like The Eagles.
The concert closes with a really effective performance of "Aku-Aku", which the band fades out "live", just like on the original album. Accompanying this final moment is a very cool video, once again nicely shot and presented in widescreen, which fills up most of the frame, with split screen elements focusing on individual band members. The video does an evocative pull back that starts on Easter Island and then slowly pulls away wider and wider until the entire solar system is being shown.
The playlist for this concert is simply the tracks of both albums:
The Grand Illusion
Pieces of Eight
The band consists of:
Styx: The Grand Illusion / Pieces of Eight Live Blu-ray, Video Quality
Styx: The Grand Illusion/Pieces of Eight Live in Concert is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Eagle Vision and Eagle Rock Entertainment with an AVC encoded 1080i transfer in 1.78:1. While much of this live concert looks at least acceptable, there are several troubling artifacts that crop up with fair regularity, including posterizing (especially when the stage is bathed in blue light), banding and rampant mosquito noise, which seems to be mostly due to whatever camera is downstage right and frequently is shooting in the darkeness off to the stage left area. Moiré patterns also appear quite a bit on the projection screen behind the band. All is not bad news, however. Quite a bit of this concert looks quite sharp, with good, robust colors and some excellent fine detail in the close-ups (one kind of funny example: look at the perfectly capped teeth of several of the band members when they're singing).
Styx: The Grand Illusion / Pieces of Eight Live Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Styx: The Grand Illusion/Pieces of Eight Live in Concert follows Eagle Rock's standard operating procedure of offering three audio options, a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround mix, an uncompressed Linear PCM 2.0 stereo mix, and a standard lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. (Why does Eagle Rock always have the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix the third choice on the audio options when you toggle through them?) Fidelity here is excellent, with really nice clarity, especially with regard to some of the retro synth sounds and the still excellent sounding vocals of the band members. The 5.1 mix isn't overly spacious or splayed, but there's nice separation of the instruments nonetheless. Styx doesn't really layer sounds to the hyperbolic levels of some of their seventies prog rock contemporaries, and that helps what is here to shine through with precision and clarity.
Styx: The Grand Illusion / Pieces of Eight Live Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Putting on the Show (1080i; 29:19) is a two part featurette that delves into the backstage scenes of getting this production on stage. Copious interview segments feature the band as well as Keith Marx, Production Manager for Styx. Marx has to manage all the roadies and technical crew, and he goes into a lot of detail about what hoops need to be jumped through to get the show underway. The really interesting thing about this piece is how it actually centers more on the crew than the band. Everyone from the drum tech to the lighting designer is interviewed, and that helps to give this featurette a lot of behind the scenes interest.
Styx: The Grand Illusion / Pieces of Eight Live Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Styx: The Grand Illusion/Pieces of Eight Live in Concert is a really interesting idea that should certainly appeal to longtime Styx fans, even without the participation of Dennis DeYoung (who hasn't toured regularly with the band for well over a decade now). This is no frills concertizing, aside from the projection screen upstage of the band members, and that helps give this outing a vestige of something approaching "street cred." The band still plays and sings very well, and they quite ably recreate the sounds of their original albums. The video quality here leaves a little bit to be desired, but the audio is excellent and the supplementary featurette is uncommonly good. Recommended.
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Styx: The Grand Illusion / Pieces of Eight Live Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Styx: The Grand Illusion / Pieces of Eight Live Blu-ray - December 13, 2011
On January 31, Eagle Rock Entertainment will release on Blu-ray Styx: The Grand Illusion/Pieces Of Eight Live. This show was recorded on November 9, 2010 at the historic Orpheum Theater in Memphis, Tennessee, on the tour that saw them perform the classic albums ...
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