Styx, REO Speedwagon and Nugent still up to rocking the crowd

| Monday, May 20, 2013, 1:10 a.m.

Ted Nugent — the fiery Motor City Madman — seems like a peculiar third wheel on a rock tour featuring clean and classy bands REO Speedwagon and Styx. But, Nugent sure gave the show an interesting and peppery start Sunday night at the First Niagara Pavilion in Burgettstown.

The rocker mixed some fun songs — like the classic “Cat Scratch Fever” — with his characteristic outspoken political dialogue that resembled, at times, an NRA rally. The odes to guns were mild compared to the finale of his performance, though. Nugent had some colorful names for President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and other administration members. Judging by the reaction to the rocker's salty and often amusing outbursts, Nugent was in good company.

Then, came REO Speedwagon, a band known mostly for its power ballads from the 1970s and ‘80s. REO, dealing with the time constraints of the three-act concert, did only a 10-song set, leaving fans wanting more. But, lead singer Kevin Cronin and his bandmates still gave those in attendance some favorites, including “Take It on the Run,” “Time for Me to Fly” and a lovely rendering of “Keep on Loving You.”

Aging REO band members still show great passion and enthusiasm for their music. Unfortunately, Cronin's distinctive tenor voice had moments of hoarseness.

Finally, Styx crowned the evening with good, clean rock. Styx performs as an ensemble with no clear frontman, and the lead vocals are split between guitarists Tommy Shaw and James “J.Y.” Young and keyboardist Lawrence Gowan. It creates the stage environment of a three-ring circus, with the audience always having something different to watch.

Gowan, with his trademark rotating keyboard and his joking ways, can especially draw attention. One of the best parts of the night was Gowan's performance of “Come Sail Away.”

After more than three decades, Styx still puts on high-energy shows with strong vocals and instrumentation, not to mention an engaging stage presence with a clear love for the audience. Still, the elimination of some of the band's biggest hits — like “Mr. Roboto” and “Babe” — is done because of the Dennis DeYoung connection, It creates a void in the set list.

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