If you lined up all the arenas REO Speedwagon, Journey, and Styx have simultaneously rocked and wimped out end to end, it would stretch across the universe and back six times and probably resemble one of their ludicrous space-invader album covers. And if you were to flip over their Power Ballad Action Cards, you'd find these illuminating stats:
Most Outstanding Characteristic: If Martin Mull needed an opener, these roadaholics would pack their trusty toothbrushes in an anvil case. Their ability to out-faceless every other faceless '70s arena band knew no bounds as they hid behind a hood ornament logo and switched lead vocalists three times for the first three albums. They even shitcanned future MVP Kevin Cronin after one album. Cronin's interim solo career could best be described as "what solo career?"
REO Speedwagon, Journey, and Styx
Cricket Pavilion, 2121 North 83rd Avenue
Scheduled to perform on Sunday, May 18. Doors open at 5 p.m. Tickets are $10 to $55. Call 602-254-7599 for more information.
Luckiest Break: When they rehire Cronin, he becomes what Lionel Richie was to the Commodores. But even Richie didn't have the balls to credit himself as "Lyric Assistant" on the albums. Ensuring that there'd never be REO songs as stupid as "Anti-Establishment Man" ever again, Cronin perfects the power ballad formula with "Keep On Lovin' You" and keeps writing them until fans don't wanna keep on buying them.
Current Standing: Cronin and two original members (no Gary Richrath or guitar wailings) plus the former drummer from Wang Chung!
Most Outstanding Characteristic: What began as a jazz-rock fusion group with refugees from Santana turns out to be Jefferson Starship without the Grace.
Luckiest Break: They replace Greg Rollie with Steve Perry, who inserts a Sam Cooke yodel into every ballad, and score a hat trick -- three Top 10 power ballads from the Escape album. At the same time, Atari issues its "Journey Escape" video game that pisses everyone off. The objective? It's up to you to guide each Journey Band Member past hordes of love-crazed groupies and sneaky photographers and protect their $50,000 in concert receipts. Two albums later, none of this will be a pressing concern when Sony starts putting its funny money behind Michael Bolton, who also yodels like Sam Cooke might've -- during a bowel movement.
Current Standing: Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain not only found another lead singer named Steve but one with the same size schnozzole! What are the odds?
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Most Outstanding Characteristic: Take the solemn seriousness of Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Pink Floyd and marry it with community theater histrionics and you've got Stynx -- oops, sorry -- you've got Styx! Their chief weapons of surprise -- Dennis DeYoung, who looks as harmless as a carpet salesman but has a silly streak that would gag Freddie Mercury, and Tommy Shaw, the first credible recording artist with braces since Jan Brady!
Luckiest Break: "Lady," one of the earliest ever power ballads from Styx II, becomes a Top 10 hit, which prompts DeYoung to include at least one "intimate" love paean per album that sounds like it was being sung to his beloved from 150 rows away. DeYoung guides Styx through a netherworld of concept albums, reaching his zany zenith in 1983, rewriting Rush's 2112 as Kilroy Was Here.
Current Standing: These aren't the best of times since Tommy Shaw and his replacement are both in the band to cancel each other out. And Styx without Dennis DeYoung is like Lost in Space without Dr. Smith. Sure, mission accomplished, but you miss out on all the sniveling and whimpering.