Q&A: Lawrence Gowan
The last time Styx visited Las Vegas, the 50-year-old rock outfit was playing its latest album, The Mission, live in its entirety for the first time ever. The band returns to that same venue, the Pearl Theater at the Palms, to kick off 2020 on Jan. 19, but this concert spectacular will be the full Styx experience, encompassing hits and deep-cut favorites from its long and epic existence. I caught up with Lawrence Gowan—who plays piano, Hammond organ and synthesizers, as well as contributing vocals to the classic Styx sound—to discuss the ongoing popularity of The Mission, the band's love of Las Vegas and the music's appeal for a broader audience.
Do you and the other members of the band feel like The Mission has taken its place as a classic Styx album?
The new measuring stick we see for that is on various online forums for the Styx faithful, and many of those have placed The Mission in the top five Styx albums all time, so that's great to see. Ultimate Classic Rock rated it number seven of all Styx albums, which is not bad for a band that's been around so long and has 21 albums. It's a great testament to the longevity of the band that we're still able to do a record like this, that the band itself as an entity has thrived to a degree that we can make a record of this caliber and do it in the analog tradition of great Styx albums of the past.
I'm sure the record is taking up a bigger chunk of the setlist these days, too.
It does. When it first came out we did one or two songs per night, but now after "Overture" and "Gone Gone Gone" it's straight into "Blue Collar Man" ... and then back to "Radio Silence," which became a favorite pretty early on.
Styx returns to Las Vegas during a time when classic rock residencies are all the rage. Could there be such a residency in the band's future?
Of course it's a possibility. The two we did with Don Felder were great. We could continue to forge some plans in that direction because we really enjoy it, and I think it's all part of the fact that live music has become as wonderful as all or any new technology and because Las Vegas has become the mecca of showbiz on the planet, really. It's such a vital place to showcase what you can do live and people come in from all around the world; night after night it's a new audience. And I'm glad to see all these bands we've toured with in the past who are like-minded.
Can you elaborate on the ways technology has changed live performance?
The digital world we now live in forces us to question our manner of doing things. That's been one of the greatest things to tap into live music and explore what digital technologies have brought and enhanced in so many ways, from lighting and sound to the way we can deliver in-ear monitoring. We can hear ourselves better than ever. And we can sculpt the show in so many more creative ways because the production is really enhanced in this age.
How has technology impacted classic rock specifically?
The greatest phenomenon for bands of our era is younger people have discovered the music. That's been the most wonderful surprise in our lives is just how much classic rock has really affected the last half of the 20th century, so far from being forgotten. You can instantly access and educate yourself about that era of music through the Internet and that brought more younger fans. I just saw Elton John a few weeks ago and I felt like the oldest guy in the audience. Everyone in my section was half my age, and that happens sometimes at Styx shows. Younger people have embraced this music and made it their own.