No place like home for Lawrence Gowan of Styx


American rock band Styx is scheduled to perform Monday at the Brandt Center in Regina with Nancy Wilson of Heart.

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Styx and pebbles…

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After more than 20 years with one of America’s most iconic rock bands, Toronto-based Styx singer Lawrence Gowan has grown accustomed to comments from his southern neighbors about his northern exposure.

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“I still remember the fact that I have something of a Canadian accent,” Gowan said with a laugh in a recent phone interview. “I guess there’s a Canadianism to me that’s pretty obvious.”

The latest encore came during a North American tour stopping at the Brandt Center in Regina on Monday – with Heart’s Nancy Wilson.

Styx was accompanied earlier in the tour by Loverboy, who provided additional Canadian content.

“That’s funny,” Gowan began. “One of our main[crew]came up to me and said, ‘I talked to the guys at Loverboy and it’s like I’m talking to you.’ (He wondered): ‘What is this Canadian thing? I can’t really say what it is, but the guys from Loverboy look like you.'”

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Gowan contributed to the discussion a few days earlier by making an unscheduled appearance during one of Loverboy’s sound checks. When the band started playing with the Hockey Night in Canada theme, Gowan immediately ran up on stage and grabbed a microphone.

“Everyone was stunned by it,” he recalls. “We are all smiling. I said, ‘All you Yankees have no idea what that piece of music is. It is sacred music for us.

Gowan is recognized worldwide as co-vocalist and keyboardist of Styx, not to mention a prolific solo career. Although his popularity peaked in Canada, American fans are aware of his work outside of the band.

“The public is so much more savvy now and informed about things,” Gowan said. “For example, so many Styx fans over the years have known that ‘A Criminal Mind’ was a big song for me in Canada. I have a Criminal Mind comic now. I would say that 80% of the orders come from the United States and yet they didn’t have the same experience with this song in the 1980s as Canada. It’s incredible. A lot of Americans came to the Toronto show (in August) because they knew we were going to play A Criminal Mind. There is this great music exchange that has taken place between Canada and the United States and I am very happy to be the standard bearer, if you want to call it that, within the group.

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Gowan’s relationship with Styx began in 1997 when he opened for the band at an arena show in Montreal. Two years later, he was asked to step into big shoes as the band parted ways with co-founder Dennis DeYoung.

The rest is history.

Styx (left to right): Chuck Panozzo, Ricky Phillips, Todd Sucherman, Tommy Shaw, James
Styx (left to right): Chuck Panozzo, Ricky Phillips, Todd Sucherman, Tommy Shaw, James “JY” Young and Lawrence Gowan. Photo by Rick Diamond

After some downtime at the start of the COVID pandemic, Styx is touring Canada for the first time in over 10 years (excluding summer festivals). The band is full steam ahead promoting their 17th studio album, Crash of the Crown, which was released in 2021.

“This is the most successful summer tour we’ve had and one of the highest-grossing tours that (promoter) Live Nation has done this year,” said Gowan, who also had a solo show at Casino Regina. in June. “The public is so hungry for it. We always knew that music was quite important in our lives, but now you can see in the faces what a life force it is. There’s a palpable emotion that emanates from all of these shows we’ve done over the past year that’s quite remarkable to see from the stage. You feel a deep sense of gratitude and connection.

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It’s not a one-way street either.

“We get as much fun as anyone in the audience,” he added. “The fun of being with people again and doing that is not something that escapes us at all.”

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Styx, a legendary band that continues to prove its relevance – and resilience – by selling out arenas in a notoriously unstable industry.

While the group is still going strong, the pandemic has helped reinforce the fact that all good things come to an end.

“I’m one of the young people in the group and I’m in my sixties; Chuck (Panozzo) just turned 74,” noted Gowan, who joined Styx in 1999 and continues to perform with Golden Age members James (JY) Young, Tommy Shaw and Panozzo.

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“You have to look at every show as a remarkable achievement… including (recognition of) everyone in the band who has ever been to Styx. There are only 10 people over a 50-year career. America was still in Vietnam when this group started. Historically, (it’s rare) to survive 50 years and still be able to lift an audience out of their seat… There’s a euphoric feeling about it lasting that long. It’s funny, when you come off stage, you’re really looking forward to the next show.

Gowan never tires of seeing people respond to classic hits like Come Sail Away, Too Much Time On My Hands, Blue Collar Man, Fooling Yourself, Grand Illusion and Mr. Roboto. He appreciates the hardcore fans as well as the new under 40 audience who weren’t even born when most of the songs were released.

“Half the audience has been with the band since the beginning and the other half came to this music because it really had staying power that none of us ever thought possible,” Gowan said. “In my 23 years with the band, I’ve seen audiences get younger, not older. It’s the weirdest thing. We see people of all ages, but what surprises me is how many are younger and how many seem to dig into the music like the songs just came out.

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