Styx – Assembly Spiegeltent Palais Du VARIÉTÉ

Produced by Second Body

Rating: 4 out of 5.

What any of us would surrender for the chance to speak with a departed loved one, even for just one moment. Mythos is founded on the concept of speaking to those beyond the veil, music a tribute to them. Styx, an award-winning concert experience of storytelling, centring itself around family, loss, and the primal connection with music. Drawing inspiration from the famed river of the Underworld, Styx attempts to reconstruct the stories of Max Barton’s Grandfather, helped by recordings from his grandmother, who has Alzheimer’s.

Ah, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves, and we mustn’t forget to begin the story properly. Ahem, Once Upon A Time

A pair of lovers for the eternities, a tale of warning and folly – Orpheus & Eurydice echoed the adorations of love so many envied. For her, his ability with the Lyre was what spoke to her (everyone loves a musician). But this is, after all, a Grecian tale, and as such, tragedy was the outcome. Determined to reclaim his fallen love, Orpheus embarks on an expedition to Hades, the lord of the Underworld and a deity with a penchant for deals. A bargain struck, where Euridice can return to the surface world under one condition; Orpheus can never look back. But sometimes, we can’t help but do so.

We’re shackled to our memories – manifestations of what once was, rebuilt in our perceptions. They’re a fascinating part of us, but equally the one we cannot rely on. Certain things can unlock recollections; smell, sight, taste, but nothing reignites memory quite like sound, music.

Vocally, Styx remains self- exceptional, channelling a distinct vibe of jazz and vaudeville aura. Acknowledging the limitations of Covid, the band of eight has been diminished to a duo. And at first, the loss of Barton’s sister as an additional lead singer is missed, but what transpires is remarkably intimate, and whilst the missing dram after the production is yearned, it’s possible to raise a toast to the touching musical splendour which communicates volumes.

Culminating in a visceral crossing of time, where the instilled memory and influence of our loved ones, subconsciously, Styx creates something sublime. These flickering embers, represented by the Edison bulbs, cast a nostalgic glow across the Spiegeltent. But this central orb, hidden behind a dainty, tired lampshade, echoes the words of Barton’s Grandmother. And to hear an addendum at the production’s end, for those who caught the show in 2019, to have one final updated recording brings a wider smile than one would imagine possible for a stranger.

Realistically the limitations of the band scale-back the overall orchestration, and elements are now played over recordings rather than live. As we come to hear Barton’s Grandfather’s piece in full glory, the noticeable lack of live brass packs less of a punch. But had one not seen the show previously, it wouldn’t make an ounce of difference. Second Body manages the set-piece remarkably well, maintaining a closeness to those not here, and poignantly reminds audiences that sometimes, despite how it may hurt, it isn’t such a bad idea to look back.

Styx runs at Assembly Festival George Square Gardens until August 15th, tickets for which are available here.

Review by Hayley Matear


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