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BMG Music presents
Styx: Return To Paradise (1996)

"I bet you never thought you'd see this group of ugly mugs together again."
- Dennis DeYoung

Review By: Chris Knox   
Published: April 21, 2000

Stars: Dennis DeYoung
Other Stars: Tommy Shaw
Director: na

Manufacturer: Crush Digital Video
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 01h:28m:00s
Release Date: September 28, 1999
UPC: 060768830790
Genre: rock

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Todd Sucherman is living the typical dream of an up and coming musician. As the intro to Come Sail Away begins, Todd Sucherman is ready to play. Imaginary sticks hovering over pretend drum skins, Todd's foot is ready to strike a fantasy bass pedal. He knows the song backwards and forwards, both the LP and 7" versions; and he practiced it hundreds of nights on the air-drum in his Chicago bedroom in 1978.

Except this isn't 1978, and he isn't in his bedroom. He is at the World Theater in Chicago, in 1996, playing the drums as a member of Styx, with a hundred friends and teachers and family in the audience. Dennis DeYoung is playing the intro on the keyboards, Tommy Shaw and James Young are ready on the guitars, Chuck Panozzo looks over from his bass setup to the drum kit, with a knowing smile of confidence.

The band, so named for one of the two rivers that snake through Hell like bad twists to a roller coaster track (and in the humble opinion of this reviewer, looking as if they have traveled down that river and back), had a defining influence on the demise of disco and during the height of their power hit platinum with four consecutive albums. Having gone their separate ways, Styx came together from their pick-up-Styx jumble to try and bring the foundation of the World Theater in Chicago to a smoldering pile.

Todd Sucherman's dream may have been to play in Styx, but for Dennis DeYoung, James Young, Tommy Shaw, Chuck Panozzo and John Panozzo, their dream of a successful rock and roll band became a 35-year-long roller coaster ride. They broke up, they reunited, they fought, they made up, and created classic rock and roll songs through it all.

Hailing from the Chicago suburbs (Maine West High School), they were originally called the "Trade Winds," then "TW4," and finally settled on the name Styx—because it was the first name the members didn't all hate. Over the years that name has done little to help them among the "religious right," who still swear there are subliminal, backwards messages in Snowblind. But the name is mystical, and that's a word that has served them well from songs to album covers.

The spook of it, for me at least, is that although not nearly as young looking as they once were (except perhaps, Dennis), their voices and chops seem to come right from the album, with nothing that time and repetition could do to alter them. So many other bands that have been around this long tend to change things as they grow tired of riffs and lyrics. Styx however, keeps true to the original work. By doing so they pull you back through time and worries to an era that could only—again, for me, at least—have been tinted through some kind of "Mickey-Mouse-pictures-giving-Iran-the-finger" haze of memories.

Like the moment I first heard Lady, which occurred while helping my mother by wearing dresses so she could hem them. The pins sticking my arms and calves, the will slowly drained from me and the desire to one day become the galaxy's greatest Jedi Knight faded. Oh, the nightmare that followed when the prettiest girl in the neighborhood came to the house as a messenger from her mother to mine to ask about a recipe for Tex Mex. The girl does her best to hide her discomfort seeing me in such attire by making small talk about the differences between grammar school and middle school, and I think to myself, "Yeah, I'll be getting laid in this lifetime. Sure I will..."

As I watched this concert, memories like the one mentioned above came back to me in sips of nostalgia like a whisper of silk, beckoning and subtle (Okay, not that one). The tunes; I knew them all. I grew up during Styx's constant climbs among the American Top Forty and outdoor cookouts at dusk. Each verse is a look back through a sepia-toned window into a slice of my childhood heavily exploited among the songs of crickets and sun flashes off Dad's suped-up Camaro. A forgotten time when my best friend and I put up a toll booth along the street in front of the house and when a car did come along they actually paid. THEY ACTUALLY PAID!!

I got a little worked up while watching it as well. Tommy Shaw and "JY" run from side to side, never missing a lick. Their guitars solos are red-hot and ice-cold at the same time, and mean—"smash-the-dashboard-mean." Dennis' voice is still fabulous and his piano playing is smooth and precise. The only guy I found out of place wasn't the new drummer, Todd, but one of the original members, Chuck Panozzo, who looks all the more like a geek with his bouncing and silly grin plastered on his face. It was only mildly perturbing.To say that I enjoyed this DVD I guess is without underscoring the fact that I enjoyed it nearly to death, and probably at the risk of upsetting the neighbors. Alas, they do not enjoy my playing along with the tunes on my Jackson plugged into a Marshal stack nearly as much as they enjoythe peace and quiet of the neighborhood otherwise. A little snooping has revealed that my next-door neighbor has recently subscribed to "Pipe-bomb Chemist Weekly," and I still refuse to open my mailbox. I suppose I am revealing a little too much about myself though, so I'll move on.

The sound is great, the picture is more than adequate, although a little fuzzy at times, and the songs are classics. What more could you possibly want? The band plays 17 tracks live in front of attendants at Chicago's Paradise Theater on the Autumnal Equinox, 1996:

Rockin' The Paradise
Blue Collar Man
Too Much Time On My Hands
Suite Madame Blue
Crystal Ball
Grand Illusion
Fooling Yourself
Show Me The Way
Boat On The River
Miss America
Come Sail Away
The Best Of Times

Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frameno - no
Original Aspect Ratioyesno

Image Transfer Review: The image was pressed from video shot in typical concert fashion, with cranes, sweeps and arches. I found the stage lighting to be the culprit for the majority of the problems with the image on this disc, which include darkness, over brightness at times, and just plain old aesthetics. Of course, this was the final concert of the tour which actually began there as well, and I am certain that the first concert probably had a more professional setup. On the other hand there were a few video dropouts and some color bleeding (mostly reds), but in all the image was fine.

It's a shame that the density of the crowd wasn't lit well enough to show off the fact that the house was jammed to the doors, or that not enough emphasis was placed with POV from the stage, but again, this is me nitpicking it to death.

At a casual glance you'll probably not notice the majority of the issues that I take with the image on this DVD as I'm seeing it at 125 inches diagonal, which dictates every single flaw in the picture because it is amplified by that multiple. For movies, this serves me well. For concert videos, it has precious little to do with what is truly important...the music.

Image Transfer Grade: C


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Although the audio on this disc does nothing to kick my reference concert video from the top spot (Eagles: Hell Freezes Over), it does make great use of all the speakers in my setup. The soundstage (pun intended) is up front and a little high, pitting you effectively in the pit. The crowd is on your level and loud, but deep enough to make you feel like you're in the thick of it. I hear screams from my left and an occasional song request behind and slightly left and I want to check my front pocket to insure that I still have my punched ticket to keep for a memento since I don't have the money for a T-shirt. Thankfully though, I have backstage passes once the concert is over as I get to sit in on interviews and look at video from Todd's camera so I know that I am the envy of that sexy Philippino woman a few feet to my left, who has never heard about my wearing of dresses, but I digress...

The two channel mix is clean, but much more shallow. It sounds very much the way I assume the CD of this concert would sound, although I don't have it to compare to at present, if there is such a disc. There were however, a couple of tracks when I actually preferred the 2.0 mix over the 5.1; on these the bass was brought to the front and the imaging slightly better realized than on the 5.1 track. Overall, I still recommend the 5.1 channel track for normal viewing.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 17 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 17 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
1 Documentaries
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single
Layers Switch: na

Extra Extras:
  1. Band history and backstage access with Tommy Shaw.
  2. Stereo song preview from "Brave New World."
  3. DVD-ROM playability and exclusive web links.
  4. Never before scene back stage photos and on the road photos.
  5. Footage of Todd Sucherman's video camera.
Extras Review: The disc has a decent amount of extra material on it, though nothing staggering. There is a preview of the title song from their newer album, Brave New World, that assures that Styx as a collective songwriting team is still very much Styx. There is behind-the-scenes footage recorded from Todd's video camera that sums up the tour. Alos, there is an interview with Tommy Shaw that seems kind of like an after thought, with not much grounded in the disc itself (kind of like this review, huh?).

Extras Grade: B+


Final Comments

In order to keep from further alienating our beloved readers here with my own memories, let me go on record as saying that great songs provide passages back to great memories, and this disc held many such passages for me. For that alone it was well worth the look. Just because a fewbars from Lady send sharp needle-stabs of pain to my wrist and ankles and fill me with anxiety about being seen in women's clothing (something I have quit doing months ago, by the way), doesn't mean that it has to be that way for you...unless of course I have planted a seed in your head that will always remind you of this review every time you hear the same tune, in which case I have ruined it for you, and apologize...

...Ah, memories.


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