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POP MUSIC REVIEWS : Awkward Fit as DeYoung Goes Broadway

August 12, 1994|CHUCK CRISAFULLI

Perhaps the kindest thing that can be said of the '70s rock band Styx is that its music was theatrical. So it makes sense that lead singer Dennis DeYoung has now turned his dramatic voice upon songs from the theater proper. Last year he washed his hands of rock 'n' roll for a while to appear as Pontius Pilate in "Jesus Christ Superstar," and he's just released an album of Broadway show tunes.

On Wednesday at the Cinegrill, DeYoung's new mode seemed awkward at best. With his four-piece band gracelessly wailing away, and his mighty tenor drenched in reverb, the intimacy of the small room was immediately squandered. For a few brief moments, in "Summertime" and "Pilate's Dream," his vocals were gripping, but otherwise he opted for hyper-emotive overkill rather than gentle persuasion.

DeYoung clearly has a sense of humor about himself, but he and his band's relentless hamming and clowning gave the show the air of a cruise ship lounge rather than any Broadway stage. A doo-wop version of "On the Street Where You Live" from "My Fair Lady," performed to backing tapes with a great deal of shtick, was a low point of the set. Curiously, the evening ended not with a show tune but with a square, spiritless go at "Great Balls of Fire."

And the versions of "Lady," "Babe" and "Come Sail Away" proved that Styx tunes don't sound any smarter in a cabaret setting than they've sounded anywhere else.

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