Thursday, April 11, 2013

CONCERT REVIEW: Chicago (4/7/13)

CONCERT REVIEW
Chicago
St. Augustine Amphitheater
(April 7, 2013)
___________________________

In 1967, their fusion of rock
and jazz was considered
revolutionary. By the end of
the '70s their chart-busting
hits had become iconic.
During the '80s they further
maintained a platinum pop
presence. Today, Chicago
remains one of the world's
most successful touring acts.
___________________________

The sunny 80° Florida spring afternoon morphed into a perfect 65° evening in which to enjoy an outdoor show at the fabulous 4,000-seat St. Augustine Amphitheater — an evening with the legendary rock band, Chicago.

Commencing promptly at 7:30PM, the nine-piece combo took the stage and the two-hour cavalcade of hits ensued. Co-founder, keyboardist, singer, and songwriter Robert Lamm announced early on that the band had, in fact, kicked off their 2013 tour that weekend in Florida — much to the delight of the sell-out crowd.

THE ORIGINAL FOUR:
 Pankow, Parazaider, Lamm and Loughnane
(Photos: Neil Migala)
Following such first set classics as "Alive Again" and "(I've Been) Searchin' So Long," Lamm reiterated the band's continued commitment to breast cancer awareness. As part of this effort, fans are allowed to place online bids via Chicago's official website for the opportunity to sing the 1976 #1 hit  "If You Leave Me Now" along with the band, live onstage at various stops on the tour. Tonight's winner was Larry Hays who handled the honor with the assistance of two little blond girls, dressed in pink — an admirable effort and an adorable moment indeed!


But the energy level waned early in the show. Longtime bassist and vocalist Jason Scheff commandeered the Yamaha keyboard placed in front of a sheer black backdrop that had been pulled across the front half of the stage to perform "Will You Still Love Me?" — the first of three consecutive, stripped down love songs. Next, Robert Lamm took his turn at the Yamaha and commented jokingly that, "the bassist is a better keyboard player than the keyboard player." And with the accompaniment of Keith Howland on acoustic guitar and newly recruited percussionist, Walfredo Reyes, Lamm delivered "Wake Up Sunshine" — a treasure from 1970. The medley came to a conclusion with smooth groovin' keyboardist Lou Paradini offering the 1988 #1 hit, "Look Away."

The show's first half wrapped with a pair of staples from 1970's Chicago II. Clearly still a fan favorite, "Make Me Smile" felt as fresh as ever, while co-founding trumpeter Lee Loughnane spanked "Colour My World" like it was a naughty schoolgirl!

The surgically enhanced, female 30-something contingent had seemingly all migrated to the front of the stage during intermission, and after a somewhat sleepy start, the band zinged to life for the second half!


Old school standards such as "Feelin' Stronger Every Day," "Beginnings," "Saturday in the Park" and "Just You 'n' Me" dominated the powerhouse second set. Other show-stopping highlights included an incredibly ferocious onstage dual between drum god Tris Imboden and percussionist Reyes during "I'm a Man," while co-founding saxophonist  Walt Parazaider simply slayed "Free." And of course, co-founding trombonist James Pankow was animated, energetic and entertaining throughout the night — the life of the party as always. Quite possibly the group's signature tune, 1970's "25 or 6 to 4" made for a mighty show closer, and after an unbelievable 43 years, it continues to rival even the heaviest of current hard core anthems.

Onstage, the band remains a powerful force. Their music continues to stand the test of time —resonating with generations of fans. And given the success of their recent home DVD concert release and the fact that their 2002 "Best Of" record currently is back burning up the charts, we're not likely to see Chicago embark on a "Farewell Tour" anytime soon.

-Christopher Long
(April 2013)

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