They came, they saw and if they didn't quite conquer, Chicago gently
reminded us of the merits of their enduring 4 decade (plus) musical
There's a lot to be said for using a mic stand as a prop. It gives the
front line players a meaningful connection between their efforts and the
crowd and the audience a sense of perspective. It also offers the
potential for the grand gesture, the carving of shapes in the void,
while in extremis it can even be used with aggressive intent.
None of this
applies to Chicago's front line players, who with the exception of
keyboard player Lou Pardini don't use stands at all. Come to that they
also dispensed with monitors, relying on clamped on radio mics and
presumably in ear monitoring.
the overall sound was pristine, the radio mics gave an already anonymous
band a curiously detached feel, a bit like being at a Level 42 gig.
incredible three pronged horn section pumped air molecules for all they
were worth and even filled the stage with nifty choreography, but when
it came to singing those smoochie ballads, let alone the ball busting
rock of the climactic '25 or 6 to 4', it left a void that they worked
manfully to fill all night.
The 9 piece
band alternated vocals seamlessly, though it was often difficult to
appreciate who was singing what. Jason Scheff made the most of his lead
vocal parts often sounding uncannily like Peter Cetera, though by the
time of 'You're The Inspiration' the band's cream was in serious danger
in spite of the surfeit of radio friendly ballads, Chicago managed to
strike a neat balance between their musical history, their innate
musical excellence and the MOR hits which so obviously struck a chord
with their crowd.
Chicago has always been a band with a musical duality at its core.
Originally there was the ground breaking jazz rock of Chicago Transit
Authority, but there was always a softer side as evidenced by the early
in the set, 'Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is' with its
glistening harmonies and stellar horns.
You can add
dance to that dichotomy as 'Street Player' pulled the band in the
direction of Earth Wind & Fire. But after a succession of soft rock
outings and ballads, some of which veered dangerously close to muzak,
Robert Lamm seized the moment with some unexpected irony to lever in
their million selling 'If You Leave Me Now', telling us that the band
was basically a jazz rock combo until the song ruined it all.
waited 40 odd years to see Chicago it also came as something of a shock
to realise that the percussion heavy 'I'm A Man' received less
recognition than some of the ballads. In the event, it disappointingly
became a top heavy vehicle for an overblown drum/percussion duet.
But tonight was really all about a career best for the fans and in that
respect Chicago didn't disappoint, bringing six part harmonies to bear
on 'Searchin So Long' and some Eagles style harmonies and a startling
trumpet motif from Lee Loughnane on 'Baby, What A Big Surprise'.
And as the
set finally gathered some much needed momentum with the breezy 'Saturday
in the Park' the band finally threw off the shackles on 'Get Away',
bringing the faithful in stalls to their feet.
The 2 song
encore of 'Free' and '25 or 6 to 4' made everything that went before
worthwhile. The horns pumped, the rhythm section thundered, the
percussion kicked in and damn it all, the band rocked liked you'd always
hoped they would.
after a 2 hour show it was still only 9.50pm and the crowd headed home
presumably for their cocoa, it was that kind of night.