Arena rock spectacles like Styx don’t rule the charts anymore but DeYoung has evolved as an artist and so has his live show. In November, he return to the stage for four theatre dates, backed by a local 50-piece orchestra.

“I’m doing it out of a desperate need for attention,” DeYoung joked. The self-deprecating humor spills into the story behind the performances.

“Last November, Tim Orchard from SFX in Chicago called me out of the clear blue sky and said, ‘Dennis, I’d like to have you come out to the Rosemont Theatre and perform with a 50-piece orchestra.’

“I told him, ‘You know, Tim, every six months or so you need to empty the bong water.’ I thought he’d lost his mind,” the singer said.

The concert sold out and a second date in Milwaukee was a success as well. The positive response was especially important at that point in DeYoung’s life. He had been ill since early 1998 and was finally diagnosed with Epstein-Barr Syndrome in the spring of ‘99.

Needing time to regain his strength, DeYoung couldn’t commit to a summer 1999 tour with Styx, so the band went on without him. He is loathe to say anything negative about his colleagues and he certainly hasn’t lost his affection for the songs.

His theatre show includes about 10 Styx classics arranged for orchestra, plus some Broadway tunes and songs from his own “Hunchback Of Nortre Dame” project. “There has always been a hint of classical music in Styx’s repertoire, but when you hear the real cats play it, it’s amazing,” he said.

Now that he’s feeling better, DeYoung told Pollstar he’d like to perform more often.

“I’m realistic about it. I would do as many dates as I’m allowed to do,” he said.

“The show is very unique, but if you don’t like me, don’t bother. It will appeal to people or they’ll pelt me with live vermin.”