Coming to SOEC

Styx, from left, Chuck Panozzo, Ricky Phillips, Todd Sucherman, Tommy Shaw, James "J.Y." Young and Lawrence Gowan. The iconic rock band plays Sept. 4 in Penticton on a double-bill with Loverboy.

When you stop and think about it, "A Criminal Mind" could have easily been a Styx song from the 1980s.

"The first time I played one of my own songs, it was A Criminal Mind and, by the end of it, (guitarist) Tommy Shaw said, 'We have to make that a Styx song,'" said Lawrence Gowan, singer and keyboardist with the rock band Styx.

"We play A Criminal Mind a lot in Canada and in border cities and the song goes over really well in Nevada, where it was played a lot. It's on a couple of our live DVDs and one of our live albums. The band does a great rendition of it."

Canadian audiences remember him simply as Gowan, a Juno Award-winning musician who achieved stardom here in the mid-1980s. He's Styx's "new" vocalist, even though he's had the job since 1999.

The present line-up of Styx — Gowan, Shaw, founding members James Young (guitar, vocals) and Chuck Panozzo (bass), Todd Sucherman (drums) and Ricky Phillips (bass) — perform on a double-bill with Loverboy, Sept. 4 at the South Okanagan Events Centre.

Styx plays 100 shows annually around the world, but Gowan still manages 20 additional shows where he focuses on his own material.

The way he joined Styx is a story in itself.

His career was taking off in Canada in the 1980s with hits including "(You're a) Strange Animal," "Moonlight Desires," and "When There's Time (For Love)," He later went from opening for Styx, to joining the band for 53 dates (replacing original singer Dennis DeYoung, who went solo) to becoming a permanent member.

When he joined Styx, it meant his solo career was put on the backburner.

"That was the hardest part," he said. "I realized that in Styx, this gigantic band, was going to occupy all of my time. I was coming off a pretty big year where I played in England with the BBC orchestra and at Princess Diana's memorial. I was also touring with The Stranglers. But, I felt like I was the right guy. We toured around the world a couple of times, played at a couple of Super Bowls and are one of the highest-grossing acts year after year. I'm confident I made the right decision."

Gowan has been featured on three studio albums by Styx. All three albums charted on Billboard, including its most recent, "The Mission," released in 2017.

Of the many hit singles Styx has released, Gowan most enjoys performing "Renegade," from "Pieces of Eight," now used by the Pittsburgh Steelers as their fourth-quarter pump-up song.

"Renegade is one of the ones I sing and it's always towards the end of the night. Whenever we play in Japan, Sweden, Norway, England or different provinces in Canada, we get a different emotional attitude from the audience. You're very aware of it by the end of the show. When we get to Renegade, it really underscores a great rock show, which to me is the greatest form of entertainment I've ever experienced."

Styx also owns a place in pop culture. On the cartoon series "South Park," antagonist Eric Cartman's favourite song is "Come Sail Away" and when he hears any portion of the power ballad, he has a compulsion to sing the rest of it.

"We loved it," Gowan said of the episode. "I actually loved South Park from the beginning and when that episode came out, we ended up recording it and we all had a laugh about it on our bus."

Born in Glasgow, Gowan was raised in Toronto. At age seven, he saw The Beatles on "The Ed Sullivan Show" and he was hooked. (Styx covered "I Am the Walrus.") The Beatles and Toronto Maple Leafs were his heroes.

As for piano influences, Tony Banks (Genesis), Rick Wakeman (Yes), Elton John and Freddie Mercury are all up there.

He still looks back at the 1980s fondly. And, unlike his contemporaries, Gowan's not embarrassed by his old videos from the Much Music days.

"I'm very proud. With film work, it's like any haircut... it will look stupid as time goes on. When I look back at Strange Animal, I see it as a great period piece, the kind of thing that defined that era of music. Everything in the '80s was over the top. Being on the top of a Mayan pyramid and singing Moonlight Desires, I'm embarrassingly proud."

Gowan describes his career as having gone "zero-to-100 in a very short time" following the release of the "Strange Animal" album in 1985.

"I had an opening slot for The Kinks that went over really well. Opening acts usually weren't expected to sell tickets. The next thing you know, I'm playing at the Montreal Forum and other big venues as a headliner. I played at Expo '86 in British Columbia. That was also a big one."

Next month's show will mark the first time Styx has played in Penticton, after several dates in Kelowna over the years. He promises a great show and with Loverboy as an added bonus.

"Loverboy has a bunch of great guys and their music is fantastic. They sound as great as ever and for (lead singer) Mike Reno, he will be back in his hometown, which should be a lot of fun for him," Gowan said.

Styx, with Loverboy, perform at the South Okanagan Events Centre, Wednesday, Sept. 4 at 7 p.m. Tickets range in price from $69.50-$109.50, plus tax and service charge. For tickets: ValleyFirstTix.com, phone 1-877-763-2849 or visit the SOEC box office at 853 Eckhardt Ave. W.