- - Sunday, October 16, 2016

Since 1972 Chicago’s favorite sons have been rocking the world. With millions upon millions of records sold, Styx has become a staple of classic rock, with songs including “Renegade,” “Too Much Time on My Hands,” “Blue Collar Man,” “Babe,” “Come Sail Away,” “The Grand Illusion,” “Mr. Roboto,” “Fooling Yourself,” “Don’t Let It End” and “The Best of Times.”

James “JY” Young has been there on guitar since Day 1. The legendary axman discussed the band’s current tour, which hits the District’s Warner Theatre Tuesday, his favorite tunes to play, carrying on without original lead singer Dennis DeYoung and their upcoming Vegas residency.

Question: How has the touring changed for you over the years?

Answer: The travel is a lot uglier than it once was with TSA and the deregulation of the airline services. These planes are getting smaller for my 6” 2’ frame. But the live concerts are still one of the two greatest joys of my life. I take the stage as a man in his fifties and walk off the stage like a man in his twenties.

Q: With such an impressive catalog, how do you decide what to play?

A: There are a certain group of songs that we feel we have to play every night because they’re important to this incarnation of the band — those being “Renegade,” “Blue Collar Man,” “Come Sail Away,” “Lady,” “Grand Illusion,” “Fooling Yourself” and a few others. Then there are a bunch of others that we plug in depending on what we played the last time we were in a city. Our production manager keeps track of set lists from every time we play in an area.

Q: What are your favorite songs to play?

A: “Renegade” and “Come Sail Away” are kind of the two grand slam home runs for us in the live concert setting. Also “Rockin’ the Paradise” from the album “Paradise Theater.” That riff is mine, so I enjoy that.

Q: What can people expect when they come out to the D.C. show?

A: They’re gonna see classic rock at its finest. They’re gonna see the band come out in a joyful way, playing at the highest level this band has ever played at. The joy we bring to the stage, we radiate that joy out there. The audience picks up on it and sends back this joyful wave. By the end of the night, we’re all surfing this giant wave of joy.

Q: Why did the band split with original lead singer Dennis DeYoung in the 1990s?

A: We stopped working together in ‘83 and after 13 years, we got back together for a successful reunion tour in 1996. And right away Dennis … .

We could have gone out and done another big tour the next year, but he insisted on only doing 40 shows because he was working on some musical thing. Which in my mind was his way of saying he’s not completely committed to the band. Ninety-eight we didn’t work at all [and in] 1999 we had a new record coming out, and Adam Sandler had the “Big Daddy” Movie using our songs. Our new album was coming out. Plus we had Cartman singing “Come Sail Away” on South Park. “Mr. Roboto” was in the Volkswagen commercial. and the taping of our ‘96 reunion tour was on public television.

We had this tremendous synergy about going out and hitting the road again, and Dennis said he wasn’t well enough to go on the road. The day the album was supposed to come out, we were offered to headline opening night of this big Chicago lakefront festival in front of 70,000 people. The mayor and all the television stations were gonna be there. And Dennis refused to play the show, said he was sensitive to light and couldn’t do it. He said there was a physical problem. We all took him at his word for it.

After that Tommy and I felt like we couldn’t wait around for him any longer. There was a great tour that was lined up. I called Dennis and said, “We’re gonna go out and do this with or without you.” Dennis toured with “Jesus Christ Superstar.”

Q: How has the bond between you and Tommy Shaw evolved?

A: Tommy and I were sort of competitive in the framework of Styx, but we did learn to collaborate. He’ll get some of the solos; I’ll get some of the solos. I think that’s always good because one guy playing all the guitar solos, even Eric Clapton, gets repetitive. We have a true appreciation of how we complement each other.

Q: How many guitar picks do you flick into the audience per show?

A: We have to worry about these things hitting people in the eye. So we maybe don’t throw out as many as we once did. We live in a litigious society, and that’s the way it is. Better safe than sorry. We’re there to bring joy to people, not to injure them.

Q: Does the band have to “Vegas up” your show for the Vegas residency?

A: Oh, no, we don’t have to Vegas it up. The classic rock audience is there now. We just have to be ourselves.

Vegas was not for us in our heyday. It used to be Steve and Eydie and Henny Youngman. Baby boomers are the dominant economic force there now, and they want to hear the soundtrack of their glorious, misspent youth. Which we are.

Q: Will Styx ever stop?

A: When I’m dead, possibly. But I told Tommy he can go on without me. Tommy turned around and said if he dies first, then we should go on without him.

We’re gonna do this for a long time.

Styx plays the Warner Theatre Tuesday. Tickets are available by going to LiveNation.com

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