Get to know the individual members of GRAND ILLUSION a little better by exploring their biographies!
Rick Allen has been the lead vocalist/keyboardist and founding-father of the STYX tribute band GRAND ILLUSION since its inception. He sang and played for several other top bands over his four decades of performing including PINNACLE, THE NIGHT, DR. NO, ROCK QUARRY, THE NEW GUYS and the highly regarded SCORPIONS tribute band BLACKOUT, with RIC STAVE, current bassist for GRAND ILLUSION.
Rick also wrote, produced and recorded a well-received solo collection, FORBIDDEN LOVE, in 1994 in limited release. He enjoyed a short run as the lead singer/front man for the local hard rock cover band STRAIGHT JACKET and the independent original alternative hard rock band BONE DEEP, in which he enjoyed local success on the 2008 CD release of “SNAP”, BONE DEEP’S debut CD.
In the mid/late 1990s, he helped form a classic rock cover band with former GRAND ILLUSION drummer Jon White called DR. NO. As a three piece, Jon was on drums, Jim Forenger and then later, Tony Mirabelli of the TMG band were on guitar and vocals, and Rick sang lead, and played keyboards. Now, back out with GRAND ILLUSION, Rick is thrilled to be performing what he considers some of the best music ever written, once again.
Throughout the years while in GRAND ILLUSION, Rick humbly enjoyed regular accolades for his lead vocal work while being honored four times at the Buffalo Music Awards for top rock keyboardist, as well as sharing several awards with the rest of the band for best group harmonies, best group vocals and of course best tribute band.
For GRAND ILLUSION, Rick has revamped his sound and added extensively to his keyboard rig in an effort to significantly update his approach to these STYX classics. With bassist RIC STAVE adding his harmonies, the recent addition of drummer/percussionist MICHAEL TANTILLO, and lead/rhythm guitarists JOHN DANIELS & SCOTT HELFRICH, who sings lead on several of the Tommy Shaw classics, Rick is overcome with enthusiasm as the vocals with this new lineup has risen to new heights, eloquently recapturing the rich STYX harmonies, as well as the Dennis De Young/Tommy Shaw vocal chemistry and thick STYX harmonies that must be seen & heard to be believed.
Rick believes that the world-class musicians he has teamed up with in this GRAND ILLUSION “reboot” are far and away, just that caliber line-up that is worthy of his renewed commitment. The band’s overall 5-piece impact, each member with well over 30 years of experience playing in dozens of highly honored and respected bands, is finally, in Rick’s own words, the culmination of a 30-year-old dream come true, and he couldn’t be happier.
Grand Illusion lead singer/keyboard player Rick Allen.
Over the years Ric has built quite a repertoire of bands to his stable of accomplishments including DISCO DUCK, BRIDGE TO MOJO and BACK TO THE BARS along with multiple tribute bands, but as a creator and bass player for the classic/prog-rock band WÜNDERLAND his pedigree is well established.
Ric has earned a multitude of top honors several times at the Buffalo Music Awards, including top dance bassist while in BLACK STABBATH, best tribute band with the LED ZEPPELIN tribute band CODA, and was honored winning best classic rock band with WÜNDERLAND more than once.
Ric regularly fills in for many different bands across the area but currently can be seen regularly playing bass guitar for PASSION WORKS with GRAND ILLUSION’S lead guitarist JOHN DANIELS. Ric was the bass player for the short-lived but legendary SCORPIONS tribute band BLACKOUT in the late 1990s with Rick Allen of GRAND ILLUSION.
He is equally at home playing keyboards as he is playing bass guitar or bass pedals and in GRAND ILLUSION, he performs amazingly on them all. And as if that weren't enough, he also plays guitar and is an accomplished trumpet player.
One of the reasons he loves playing these STYX songs is the deep connection that so many people have to this material. His biggest thrill is when he sees 20 and 30-somethings singing along enthusiastically with tunes like “RENEGADE” or “COME SAIL AWAY” and he witnesses just how well this music crosses generations.
For his part, to bring this material to so many people in a fresh new way with these other four amazing WNY musicians is worth everything, and he is honored to be playing with them.
But if each member of GRAND ILLUSION were asked what it’s like performing with Ric in the band, they are each quick to reply, “The honor is all mine!” After one GRAND ILLUSION show, it’s easy to see the mutual respect and admiration shared by all members is well earned and well deserved.
Grand Illusion bassist Ric Stave.
Guitarist extraordinaire John Daniels has been a mainstay of the Buffalo, NY music scene for decades, most notably as the axe-smith in the award-winning HEART tribute band BAD ANIMALS, where he performed with his wife and renowned female vocalist CAROLYN DANIELS throughout the 1990s. A few years after the band won the award for Top Rock Band at the Buffalo Music Awards in 1994 this dynamic duo hit pay-dirt together again after forming the massively popular regional cover band PASSION WORKS that performs to enthusiastic audiences to this day.
As a local favorite and perennial nominee at the BMA for his guitar work, John continues to perform in PASSION WORKS with GRAND ILLUSION bassist RIC STAVE.
When an opening became available for a guitarist in GRAND ILLUSION, it was a “no brainer” to consider who the obvious first choice would be, so when the band approached him to fill the slot, John’s enthusiastic response was overwhelming, locking him in as half the band’s top-shelf guitar duo.
As the sole guitarist in PASSION WORKS covering both lead and rhythm guitar parts, John’s ability to create a fully textured sound helps produce an amazing dynamic thickness to any cover tune, and his style recently has been compared to guitarists ALEX LIFESON of RUSH and even QUEEN’S BRIAN MAY.
So, in the context of these STYX arrangements, with the addition of Scott Helfrich, GRAND ILLUSION'S brilliant second guitarist, John’s experience and prowess in being able to squeeze every drop of sound out of every note enhances GRAND ILLUSION’S sonic impact to never before attainable new heights.
As mutual admirers of each other’s work over the years, John and GRAND ILLUSION lead singer/keyboardist RICK ALLEN couldn’t be more thrilled to finally be working together, and as for the band as a whole, this awe-inspiring collective force presents a level of entertainment far and away greater than the mere sum of its 5 parts that must be seen and heard in person to truly be appreciated, and the band is elated beyond words that John Daniels is now an inimitable element to this amazing mix of seasoned pros.
Grand Illusion guitarist John Daniels.
SCOTT HELFRICH, renown session artist and performing guitarist, is an accomplished musician, performing equally well on electric guitar, acoustic guitar and classical guitar, while being highly regarded for his superior lead vocals and vocal harmony talents.
Scott has performed in many various original and cover bands in the last 30 years in the Western New York Area, including the popular “surf rock” foursome THE FRESHWATER FOUR and the prog-rock cover band ROGUE PLANET.
Scott has excelled not only as a local performing artist but as a strong composer in his own right, which was made apparent while playing in the contemporary folk/acoustic trio ACOUSTRIA, with whom he still performs with LEAH PINNAVAIA and JOHN CARUSO, where he truly came into his own as a writer on some of the band’s strongest originals.
The fuller, richer sounds Scott brings as a second guitar player is only rivaled by his amazing lead and harmony voice, coloring GRAND ILLUSION'S performance with a much broader spectrum of diverse vocal tonality. The other four members couldn’t be happier adding an additional strong harmony voice to their line-up to really thicken up the vocals.
However, the true value of what Scott brings to the table is found in the vocal timbre of this amazing tenor when he sings lead on several of the band’s STYX classics.
Scott’s voice adds that missing element that when combined with RICK ALLEN’S other lead vocals, brings to life the magic of the original DENNIS DE YOUNG/TOMMY SHAW lead vocal combination that must be heard to be believed!
As the fifth and final member, fortunately, Scott finds himself in a position to have ample time to prepare himself and the band for GRAND ILLUSION'S grueling rehearsal schedule for this new and much improved reboot of their show, and he is thrilled and honored to be a part of the GRAND ILLUSION experience.
For the other members of the band, they feel equally blessed to have Scott aboard. He is surprised to have found himself filling such an integral role in such an established rock tribute band, but now that he's in, he's asked himself why he took so long.
They don't even care why they waited so long to add Scott, they're just glad he's here now. With the addition of this musical dynamo, GRAND ILLUSION as a whole, both personally and musically, is better for it.
Welcome home, Scott, welcome home!
Grand Illusion guitarist/vocalist Scott Helfrich.
With over 30 years’ experience on the local music scene, from Alternative Hard Rock to Dance, from Classic Rock to New Age, Michael has done it all. As an accomplished musician, over the years Michael developed a uniquely aggressive-style drumming technique, and when matched with his metronome-like tempo, earned him the respect and admiration from other musicians of his generation that is unrivaled to this day. Michael owns and operates two local IT/computer repair & sales businesses, and still finds the time to perform live in bands full-time.
Michael has performed in many various award winning original and cover bands in the last 30+ years in the Western New York Area. Throughout the 80s and 90s, he came into his own not only as an accomplished session artist but as a strong go-to performer filling the needs of countless local bands throughout the region, while earning a national endorsement from REGAL TIP drumsticks.
Some of the bands Michael has performed with include SEVENTH SIGN, HIT-N-RUN, GRUNGEBOX, ENVY, PASSION WORKS where he performed with his cousin and GRAND ILLUSION guitarist JOHN DANIELS, and BLACKLIST just to name a few. He also performed with GRAND ILLUSION lead singer/keyboardist RICK ALLEN in the popular cover band PINNACLE. “It’s really great to be performing with Michael again after all these years, we really go back a ways,” Rick was recently quoted as saying, “and with his relationship to John, it’s like we’re all one big happy family!”
Michael has proven himself not only more than capable, but his enthusiasm and level of commitment has injected a new energy into the whole band the other members of GRAND ILLUSION are thrilled with.
He never dreamed he would be part of a STYX tribute band, but now that he's in, he's been asking himself why he took so long.
After hearing the new “Tantillo” sound, the band was so blown away, they don't even care how or why they were lucky enough to have Michael become available precisely when they needed him, they're just glad he's here now. GRAND ILLUSION as a whole, both personally and musically, are happy to have him aboard. Welcome home, Michael, welcome home!
Grand Illusion drummer/percussionist MICHAEL TANTILLO