October 18, 2014 was probably one of the best days I’ve ever had. About a month prior to this date, my dad surprised me with floor seats to the Dennis DeYoung concert. I had seen him a year earlier in Chicago (where he is from) for my thirteenth birthday.
For those of you who don’t know, Dennis DeYoung is formally one of the three lead singers and former keyboard player of Styx; he sang and wrote some major hits for them: Come Sail Away, Babe, Mr. Roboto, Lady (their breakthrough hit), Rockin’ the Paradise, Grand Illusion, and more. Styx started as a trio called The Trade Winds, since they formed in a suburb of Chicago. The trio consisted of Dennis and the Panozzo twins. So, he was there from the very start.
Anyway, back to one of the best nights of my life. We arrived early to The Family Arena so we could get a good parking spot. I had brought my sealed (from 1978), numbered, limited edition Pieces of Eight picture disc with me. I remember feeling stupid that I brought that and a sharpie with me. I almost left it in the car, actually. There was no way I was going to work my way past security up to the front row; I held onto it in my seat anyway. I was getting restless in my seat just waiting for him. The lights went out and everyone started cheering, only to be told, “Help me welcome a band local to St. Louis…” I’m not a huge fan of a local band being stuck in before a bigger act like Dennis. But hey, it’s a really great opportunity for that band. After that band played their last note, everyone started chanting, “Dennis. Dennis. Dennis.” But guess what? Another local band came up on stage instead. I had to sit through another forty-five minutes of songs I didn’t know. For a third time, the lights went down, and Dennis finally came on stage. He opened with The Grand Illusion, the title track of their 1977 album (which was released on 7/7/77) . I was singing all of the words the whole time, even when he did some of his solo songs. We sat next to these college-aged kids. They were big fans as well. Me, my sister, and them were standing through the whole concert, even when he sang Babe (probably the second slowest Styx song). After fifteen songs, he started to walk off stage, but then stopped. He said something along the lines of, “Let’s just pretend I just walked off stage and came back…” He was about to go into the encore. That’s when I rushed up to the front row. See, I use my age as an advantage. Because I’m so young and short, older people let me stand in front of them. I was basically pushed up to the barrier. It was amazing. I told my sister to run back to our seats and grab my record and Sharpie off of my seat. This was going to happen. The first words of the last song came out, “I’m sailing away…” Some lady had a Grand Illusion record (the album the song is on) that Dennis took and held up, signed, and gave back all while he was singing. Then he came my way. I stuck my Sharpie up and he grabbed it, but of course as dumb as I am, I left the cap on. While he was still singing, he was pulling back one way and I was pulling the other, kind of like tug-of-war. We couldn’t get the cap off, so he handed it to the security guard who uncapped the pen for me and handed it back to Dennis. It happened. My record was signed. My sister got a picture of it, only because we were struggling with the cap. That was so amazing to experience. After the song was over, and they did their final bows, I waited around while the stage was being torn down. One of the stagehands was pulling up a set list from the ground, so I frantically waved my hand. He came over to me and gave me the set list!
I now have the set list, Sharpie, wristband, ticket stub, and even the parking pass in a shadowbox on my wall. I also framed the signed record, which is also hanging on my wall.