Music cruises have become big business and most include multiple bands sailing on the ship with their fans. Music is being played nearly round-the-clock and besides formal meet-and-greets, most of the musicians can be found around the ship and are often willing to take pictures, sign autographs and even sit and chat with their fans. It's an incredible experience, but there isn't much time for relaxing. Carnival has decided to change things up a bit with their Live Concert Series, combining a regular cruise with an appearance by a single band during one night in port.
Styx was one of the many great bands to take part this year, and I had the privilege of seeing them on the Carnival Breeze. The concert took place on 10/9/14 in the ship's main showroom while the ship was docked in Cozumel. The showroom was a delightfully intimate venue for a concert by a rock powerhouse like Styx. The concert, considered an excursion and requiring separate tickets, allowed fans to choose between general admission or VIP. The VIP option included a meet-and-greet before the show with champagne and a photo with the band, and seats in the first three rows. Well, most of the VIP's ended up in the first three rows. I did hear some unlucky fans complaining that there was no room left up front when they left the meet-and-greet.
Styx is a fantastic live band and I have never been disappointed, but this was probably the best performance I've seen from them in recent years. They were very relaxed, smiling, joking with each other, and interacting frequently with the crowd. Maybe it was the result of some time spent in the islands, or maybe it was the energy of the die-hard fans, willing to travel great distances to see their favorite band, but the show was worth every penny.
Tommy Shaw, whose voice has lost nothing over the years, used every inch of the stage as he entertained his fans. Probably the night's most memorable moment was when he broke out the acoustic guitar and played "Crystal Ball", one of their earliest tunes and a song not always heard live. James "JY" Young discussed at length the debauchery and indiscretions of their youth before launching into "Light Up". Keyboardist Lawrence Gowan is a true showman, providing impeccable vocals on such tunes as "Grand Illusion", "Rockin' The Paradise", and "Come Sail Away" (an appropriate tune for a cruise ship, don't you think?). He pounds out the iconic riffs on a spinning keyboard, sometimes playing behind his back. When not playing the keys, you can find him dancing around the stage, engaging every member of the crowd within reach. Ricky Phillips took care of most of the duties on bass, but original bassist Chuck Panozzo made a surprise appearance. Todd Sucherman rounded out the rhythm section, and I almost wanted him to have some Tommy Lee style drum kit so he could interact with the crowd as much as the other band members. The rest of the set included the hits "Lady", "Blue Collar Man", "Fooling Yourself" and "Too Much Time on my Hands". They played "Renegade" as the encore and had the whole crowd going wild.
Styx has already signed on for several shows for the 2015 Carnival Live Concert Series, so if you are looking for a fantastic vacation and an incredible concert experience, take a look at what's available!