Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Longevity pays off for Chicago


Chicago's horn section was the center of attention
at the group's Sept. 4 concert at the Island Resort & Casino
in Harris. Pictured, from left, are James Pankow, Larry
Klimas and Lee Loughnane.


Rock band Chicago showed their time-tested method for delivering the hits during an exhuberant concert at the Island Resort & Casino in Harris over the Labor Day weekend.

The veteran group, formed in 1967, includes founding members Robert Lamm (keyboards, guitar, vocals), Lee Loughnane (trumpet, vocals), James Pankow (trombone) and Walter Parazaider (saxophone). The remainder of the band comprises Jason Scheff (bass, vocals), Tris Imboden (drums), Keith Howland (lead guitar, vocals) and Lou Pardini (keyboards, vocals).

For the local shows, Larry Klimas substituted for Parazaider and a second drummer, Drew Hester, was added. Hester has performed with alternative rock band Foo Fighters.

Originally known as The Big Thing, Chicago originated in the Windy City, but quickly followed producer James William Guercio to Los Angeles.

Guercio, who had success with the Buckinghams ("Kind Of A Drag") and Blood, Sweat & Tears ("You've Made Me So Very Happy"), saw promise in the new band.

Under Guercio's guidance, they performed in Chicago, L. A. and San Francisco as "Chicago Transit Authority," also the name of their first album. "Call them 'Chicago'," Guercio said in the album's liner notes.

Issued on Columbia Records in 1969, their double-disc debut contained four hits, combining jazz and rock. They followed with "Chicago II" which firmly established the band as a major force in pop music.

My wife Sue and I saw the Sept. 4 show from seats in the third row.

The band opened with a brassy medley including "Make Me Smile," "So Much To Say, So Much To Give" and "Colour My World," three tracks from their second album, released in 1970.

Loughnane handled lead vocals on "Colour My World," originally sung by Terry Kath, the Chicago guitarist who died of an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound in 1978.

Next, the legendary group moved to "Dialogue (Part 1 & 2)," a lengthy jazz-rock experiment from 1972. "If You Leave Me Now," Chicago's first No. 1 hit, from 1976, followed.

Obviously having fun, the band performed "Call On Me" and "Alive Again," both 70s hits.

They returned to their early days for "I'm A Man," a track from their first long-player, originally a hit for the Spencer Davis Group. The performance, one of the night's high points, included a drum duel between Imboden and Hester.

Two 80s hits, played on regular rotation on MTV, followed. Both "Hard Habit To Break" and "You're The Inspiration" were included in "Chicago 17."

Lamm moved from keyboards to guitar for his song, "Beginnings," another standout from the group's first album.

Jason Scheff

Scheff sang a heartfelt version of "Old Days," from 1975. The ballad "Just You 'N' Me" followed as fans moved to stand in front of the stage. Both songs were Top Ten hits.

Founding member Lamm returned to center stage to sing his composition, "Saturday in the Park," Chicago's first gold single, released in 1972.

Chicago's all-hits program continued with "Hard To Say I'm Sorry," a chart-topper from 1982, featured in the movie "Summer Lovers," starring Daryl Hannah. "Feelin' Stronger Every Day," a Top Ten selection from 1973, followed.

James Pankow

The three-piece horn section dominated the stage during the evening and was responsible for the group's trademark sound. Pankow twirled his trombone like he was a gunslinger in the Old West. In fact, Pankow wrote most of Chicago's horn arrangements.

Obviously enjoying themselves, Pankow, Loughnane and Klimas smiled throughout the show.

During a three-song encore, the band went back to 1972 for "Free," as a large United States flag dropped to cover the Chicago logo located at the back of the stage.

The band returned to their early albums for the last two songs. "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?" originally appeared on "Chicago Transit Authority" while "25 Or 6 To 4" was contained on "Chicago II." Both songs were Top Ten hits in 1970.

Robert Lamm

Many of the concert's best moments came when the group performed Lamm's songs, "Beginnings," "Saturday In The Park" and their final two selections.

A perfect cap to the evening, "25 or 6 to 4" was a thunderously powerful experience.

As the audience probably expected, Chicago delivered their well-crafted jazz-rock hits with perfect musicianship, keeping with their decades-long winning formula.

Original members Pankow, 62; Loughnane, 62; and Lamm, 64; showed an energy which belied their age. Although he didn't play at this show, 64-year-old Walter Parazaider still performs at most Chicago dates, as well.

On this night, Chicago relied on its early albums, but the group has added dozens of hit records to their catalog over the years.

From "Questions 67 And 68" in 1969 to "Here In My Heart" in 1997, Chicago registered 50 songs on the Hot 100 singles chart. In addition, they have five No. 1 albums to their credit.

In an unmatched feat by an American act, the "rock 'n' roll band with horns" has charted albums in each of the last five decades.

Despite a number of personnel changes over the years, the band hasn't stopped touring and recording since the late 1960s.

For Chicago, it's all a matter of time.

1 comment:

Perplexio said...

Excellent review-- I'd recommend a Chicago concert to any fan who hasn't seen them live before. Those who have, I recommend taking a pass. Their setlist varies little from year to year and each year they seem to have a little bit less of the fire they had the previous year. I saw them live 9 times between 1993 and 2004 at various different venues (3x in Central NY state, 4x in Northern Ohio, 1x in Indiana, and 1x in the Chicago metro area). I've heard that Lou Pardini has been well received, but I do miss Bill Champlin who departed Chicago in early August of this year after 28 years in the band. I am happy to hear they've gone back to the 2 drummer format. Their best material in the 70s featured Danny Seraphine and Laudir de Olivera on drums and percussion respectively and their best tours of the 80s featured Danny Seraphine and Kenny Cetera on drums and percussion. After Peter Cetera left his brother Kenny followed leaving a "hole" in the rhythm section. Kenny also provided high harmonies (Peter obviously couldn't harmonize with himself) although Chicago was able to fill that hole with guitarist Dawayne Bailey who provided excellent high harmony vocals during his tenure in the band (1986-1994).