Gowan adds Canuck twist to Styx

Even over the phone, Canadian singer Lawrence Gowan — the Strange Animal known for wild-man vaults from his piano in the 1980s — sounds like a guy who’s having the time of his life.

Members of the band Styx

Members of the band Styx

OTTAWA — Even over the phone, Canadian singer Lawrence Gowan — the Strange Animal known for wild-man vaults from his piano in the 1980s — sounds like a guy who’s having the time of his life.

The classically trained musician joined Styx more than 10 years ago after the Chicago-born rockers bitterly parted with their theatrical frontman Dennis DeYoung, and Gowan says the decade has flown by.

“It’s not difficult in this situation,” said Gowan, with the light-hearted, at times self-deprecating, delivery of a man who is thoroughly enjoying himself.

“I’ve been in (Styx) now 10 years. It is shocking to believe. I only believe it when I see old pictures of us.

“The first couple of years I was with the band I had this kind of goatee beard. And I’m like, I don’t even remember having that thing stuck to my face.”

The reconstituted band has travelled the world blasting audiences with its blend of power pop sweetened with Come Sail Away keyboard melodies.

Styx heads north to Ottawa’s Bluesfest for a Thursday night concert, joining a roster that’s as eclectic as it is blues-based.

Gowan spends part of each year at his Toronto home and couldn’t be happier to be back on Canadian soil.

He grew up in nearby Scarborough and formed a teenaged band out of school before launching a solo career highlighted by some enduring tunes, like (You’re a) Strange Animal and All the Lovers in the World.

His fans in Ottawa may get to hear him perform a Styx-ified rendition of his hit A Criminal Mind.

“I’ll throw in just a couple of blues notes to make it legit,” Gowan, now 52, said.

“It may be in the show. I can never promise this,” he added, citing the band’s “embarrassment of riches” when it comes to crowd favourites.

“I enjoy Renegade very much but I don’t sing that one — that’s a Tommy song,” he said of Styx guitarist and lead showman Tommy Shaw.

“The harmonies are very challenging on it. I always loved it, the first time I heard it. I enjoy singing all the songs of theirs that I do: Grand Illusion, Lady, Come Sail Away’ and Suite Madame Blue. Those are tremendous songs to sing.

“It’s a very powerful band live. And that’s what I get caught up in. That becomes part of the whole experience.”

Don’t hold your breath for Babe or Mr. Roboto, though. The band hasn’t exactly showcased all of DeYoung’s signature hits since he tried to sue his former mates for carrying on under the Styx banner.