In 1980, the band Styx released an album titled "Paradise Theater," a nostalgic look at a classic concert venue long since demolished. It may have been fitting, then, that Styx was the debut headliner Thursday at Anaheim's new Sun Theatre, which aims to blend contemporary acoustics with a hint of Art Deco elegance.
"Welcome to an evening of just us," singer-guitarist Tommy Shaw declared early in the band's two-hour concert, which will be repeated tonight at the 1,200-seat house. "Is this cool or what?"
As the Chicago-based quintet launched into the thundering progressive-rock strains of the title song from its 1977 "Grand Illusion" album, Shaw looked out over a box-shaped room filled with dinner tables and ecstatic fans.
There were two big video screens flanking the stage magnifying the faces of the musicians for those seated way in the back. But it was hardly necessary in the huge, airy room, where no seat was too far from the stage or had an obstructed view. The sound quality was better than average in every corner.
While the Sun lacks the rich character of such comparable older venues as the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles, it is a roomy, modern venue with much to offer in the way of comfort. A huge bar in the lobby was surrounded by framed posters of such pop figures as Van Morrison, Ben Harper, Lenny Kravitz and Jennifer Lopez. Video screens and speakers above the bar meant never missing a note.
Styx performed with real enthusiasm, not as faded pop heroes. But beyond the band's biggest hits, memorable hooks were few. New songs such as "Heavy Water," from the band's recent "Brave New World" album, too often resorted to flat metal passages led by guitarist James Young.
While much of the band's repertoire was forgettable, Styx's best-known hits still carried some nostalgic weight. It was music that was upbeat and positive in tone, including "Lady," still one of the band's best-known radio hits. Fans couldn't have been disappointed, despite the absence of founding keyboardist Dennis DeYoung.
* Styx plays tonight at 8 at the Sun Theatre, 2200 E. Katella Ave., Anaheim. $50. (714) 712-2700.