FFWDing to the Best Part: “High Enough,” Damn Yankees (1990)

Shaw/Blades is pretty much my favorite band ever (if we’re speaking in purely hyperbolic terms).  Who, you ask?  Well, it’s the duo comprised of Tommy Shaw (from Styx) and Jack Blades (from Night Ranger).  They specialize in acoustic scores, tight harmonies, and the reinterpretation of familiar classics, such as “California Dreamin'” and “Summer Breeze.”

When I first moved to Chicago, they came to town and played at a relatively small venue for $20 a pop. I refrained for reasons of frugality as I was settling into a new, pricier, city.  This remains my second-biggest missed-concert regret, trumped only by the time I skipped out on front-row tickets to Nelson to go on what I thought was a date (turns out, it was a friend thing/group hang).   Tour again, boys!  (Nelson or Shaw/Blades, really … I’d love to see either.)

Anyway, in between Styx/Night Ranger and Shaw/Blades, there was Damn Yankees, which consisted of these two fine fellows along with Ted Nugent, who needed something to do while waiting for hunting season to roll around.  Tight harmonies were again a trademark, but then you had The Nuge’s blistering guitar magic to boot.  Their first single, “High Enough,” was also their most successful. And though it’s essentially relegated to the Monster Ballad oeuvre, one can’t argue that it’s quite a pretty assemblage of power chords and tenor vocals that stretch the limits of human endurance.

Best part?  3:45 – 3:52. At this point, the listener has almost made it through the storm. Verses, choruses, a bridge that builds to a Nugent-solo climax. And then!  A final pre-chorus, which concludes with a Shaw-led vocal progression way into that stratosphere above High C and a “Yeah-eah-eah-eah-eah” worthy of the Mamas and the Papas themselves. 23 years later, I still get chills.


(In a future post, I really need to analyze this video. Guns. Cash. Prison. Beer Cans. Shirtless drummers. Tommy Shaw’s eyebrows. Exploding styrofoam coolers. What. Is. Happening.)


Riding the Storm Out (In Which I Celebrate 80s Rock in Modern Fashion)

On a perfect 70-degree Sunday evening in downtown Chicago, two girlfriends and I went to see the epic troika of late-70s rock:

  • Ted Nugent (who went on a rant against Illinois politicians. While performing in Illinois).
  • REO Speedwagon (who sang a few too many but rocked totally hard).
  • Styx (who are led by Tommy Shaw, who is like a slightly older, way more buff, and probably less chlamydia-ridden David Spade).

I “live-tweeted” the event (gag), mostly to amuse myself and my cousin and to annoy my friends I was with. Who were already — shall we say — frustrated with me because I was in charge of the tickets and, upon having requested the “best three together,” was assigned T-1, U-1, and V-1. All right behind each other. Thank yoooouuu, Live Nation. At least we were on an aisle:

Anyway, here are my observations as they happened over at BethGWrites.

7: 11 pm: Devil horns!! #nugentstyxreo

7:34 pm: 3 mins in, first mullet sighting. #nugentstyxreo

 7:43 pm: Richard Branson stole Ted Nugent’s font.


8:09 pm: ‘Don’t Let Him Go.’ A few keys lower than the album version. #nugentstyxreo

8:34 pm: ‘Can’t Fight this Feeling.’ Still too much sunlight for lighters! #nugentstyxreo

8:37 pm: “Bring this ship into the shore … throw away the oars forever.” Not a bad 80s lyrical metaphor. #nugentstyxreo

9:04 pm: “Back on the Road Again?” Worst final encore ever, REO. #nugentstyxreo

9:05 pm: Just kidding! Second encore is ‘Roll With the Changes.” Perfect close. #nugentstyxreo

9:15 pm: Oh my! ‘Keep On Loving You,’ THIRD encore. #karaokefavorite #nugentstyxreo

9:17 pm: Now wondering if Styx will ever, in fact, take the stage. #nugentstyxreo

9:17 pm: Fourth REO encore, ‘Ridin the Storm Out.’ #nugentstyxreo #whereisstyx

9:22 pm: The REO drummer has lost his muscle shirt. #nugentstyxreo

9:44 pm: Met a guy who has seen REO 114 times. #impressive #nugentstyxreo

9:51 pm: Just bought a tee that looks likes it’s from the Freaks and Geeks costume closet.

9:57 pm: Tommy Shaw is amaze-balls. #nugentstyxreo

9:58 pm: Who is this fake, as good, but less self-important Dennis DeYoung? #nugentstyxreo

10:09 pm: Hi-Infidelity and The Grand Illusion? Truly great album names. #nugentstyxreo (agree, @robertAbooey?)

10:16 pm: Please please, Ted and Tommy, sing ‘High Enough?’ #damnyankees #nugentstyxreo

10:18 pm: Tommy Shaw has the most ripped arms I’ve ever seen on any human being? #58yearsold #nugentstyxreo

10:27 pm: Why is Styx covering not one, but two Who songs? #nugentstyxreo

10:32 pm: South Park only made ‘Come Sail Away’ better. #nugentstyxreo

11:04 pm: Great night of classic rock! Beats today’s garbage any day.#ilovethe80s #nugentstyxreo