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RockNotes: U2 vs. Styx

1. U2 was at Cannes, hawking their new three-dimensional movie, U2 3D. I dunno, even if it turns out to be the most awesomely great visual experience I've ever had, I still have a funny feeling about something this gimmicky. As Milhouse says, "It used to be about the music, man."

bono_glasses.jpgAccording to Reuters, "U2 3D, shot in South America during the band's Vertigo tour, seeks to recreate the atmosphere of a gig and take fans on a thrilling visual ride.

"The film combines camera angles that soar over the audience of up to 80,000, zoom in to within inches of the performers, join them on stage and look back into the stadium.

"At one point, U2's lead singer Bono reaches out towards the 3D camera and looks as if he is about to step into the cinema."

If it's the kind of 3D movie where everyone in the theater has to wear those huge cardboard glasses, I'm hoping they have the smarts to make them look like Bono's wraparound shades, thus pointing out the irony that Bono has seemed like he's been going to a 3D movie for about 20 years now.

Despite the hype factor, however, I do think that U2 is still the only band both good enough and big enough to pull off something like this and actually make it work. Would it be worth plunking down $20 at the IMAX to see a 90-minute filmed U2 concert in which the band comes right up your nose? Maybe if I were in the right mood.

And by that I mean if I were drunk.

2. Maybe at some point we're going to have to merge the rock 'n' roll and minor league baseball desks here at The Beachwood Reporter. After Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson did their groundbreaking tour of minor league parks in 2004 by playing such cozy venues as Sec Taylor Stadium in Des Moines and Coveleski Stadium in South Bend, there's another generation of small town ballpark touring coming along this year. Only this time, it's not quite Dylan. It's more like Counting Crows, Live and Collective Soul. Oh well. Like all great ideas, this minor league ballpark thing is losing something through repetition.

It's threatening to turn into the jam band niche venue of choice. Why is that, I wonder? It could be concertgoer logistics. You'd have to think it would be pretty hard to carry out any kind of law enforcement actions while the perps are all standing around on a baseball field. You could probably see the cops coming from a mile away.

Tickets for the "Rock 'n' Roll Triple Play Ballpark Tour" are $50. Is it just me, or does that seem a like a lot to stand on some infield dirt for four hours, even with the help of whatever stimulants you can find? Shouldn't the $50 level be reserved for an actual seat?

"So if you live in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, or Buffalo, New York, or Sedalia, Missouri, or Sauget, Illinois, or any of the other 20 or so yards we'll be playing this summer," says Adam Duritz, "then we'll see you there. If not, get in the car and take a drive. Like I said, it's a big beautiful country. You ought a see it anyway. That's what I'm gonna do."

Well, if Adam's gonna see the country, darn it, I can, too. So let's see, it's the $50 for the Rock 'n' Roll Triple Play Ballpark show ticket, plus gas at $4 per gallon to drive from Chicago to Sauget (basically to East St. Louis) and back (so maybe $70), then probably staying at the Cornfield Motel (another $50 per night) or at the KOA campground if you're outdoorsy ($60 for two nights). Then there's food and "beverages" ($100 for the weekend). And, uh . . . hey, now I'm broke! Wow, this minor league park-rock thing really does have rural American cred: It is like living in a small town! You're stuck out in the middle of nowhere without a dime to your name!

3. I, like most of us, will admit to having a certain amount of interest in the misfortunes of larger-than-life rock music dysfunctionals. Looming larger in that pantheon now are the Panozzo Brothers of Styx. I remember writing an obituary for United Press International for drummer John Panozzo when he died in Chicago in 1996, apparently from alcohol-related health problems. His sad passing set off my irony meter because Styx was such an antiseptic, "safe" rock band - you wouldn't think its members were doing anything but enjoying their well-funded middle-age years, hanging out on the golf course with Sammy Hagar and all the other bogus corporate rock icons.

styx_music.jpgSo that surprised me. Then about six years ago, we found out that his surviving brother, bassist Chuck Panozzo, not only was a closeted gay man during Styx's glory years, but later contracted full-blown AIDS and survived. The Panozzos were dealing with a lot of heavy shit, that's for sure... not that you'd ever notice from the squeaky-clean persona projected mainly by frontman Dennis DeYoung. To most everyone, Styx seemed like a comfy half-way alternative between the sacred and the profane, like the musical equivalent of suburbia.

Little did we know the rhythm section was this dark and troubled miasma of heartbreak and shame. Chuck Panozzo has just released a memoir called The Grand Illusion: Love, Lies, and My Life With Styx, and according to the reviews, it's mainly about the lies he had to live as a gay rock star. The reason he didn't come out, even in an industry as liberal as the music industry, is, he says, because he didn't want to endanger the band's appeal to female fans. Now he's ashamed he denied who he was.

That he was urged by at least one unnamed band member to stay in the closet doesn't come as a surprise: It's merely confirmation to me that Styx, like so many crappy '70s bands of their product-friendly ilk, was all about the revenue and only had grand illusions that their mediocre music actually made some kind of difference. But there are some non-gay-related revelations from Panozzo as well. For instance, Styx bombed in its first incarnation as a wedding band in the '60s because they didn't want to play music that people their own age would be interested in. Hmmm. In other words, "rock" music was not their first choice. That explains a lot.

Another revelation concerns DeYoung and the, shall we say, mixed feelings he engenders. Panozzo says it was his vote that determined DeYoung wouldn't be able to call his new band "Styx" when he acrimoniously parted ways with the others in 2000. The reason Panozzo voted to stiff him: He didn't like the way DeYoung had treated him when they recorded their last album together, 1999's Brave New World, allegedly insisting that Panozzo's name be left off the credits because Chuck had been too weak from his AIDS drug regimen to play bass on most of the tracks.

Yow. Nice one, Dennis. Nice one.

*

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Posted on May 23, 2007


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TV - Chicago Smash Sets Ratings Record.
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SPORTS - A Fall Without College Sports.

BOOKS - How The South Won The Civil War.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Speak At Your Own Funeral.


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