The lights go out, 9 people wander onto the stage and then the magic starts. The lights hit the stage and the thunder of the horns starts to resonate thought the venue. The stage starts to turn and all of a sudden, you realize that this is going to be a magical evening. Welcome to the Celebrity Theatre in Phoenix, Arizona and tonight, Chicago has come to town.
I remember seeing the band when they were originally called Chicago Transit Authority back in the late 60s. Due to legal reasons, they shortened their name to Chicago in 1970. After almost 50 years, 25 platinum albums, over 100 million albums sold and 21 top 10 songs, they were finally inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame on April 8th, 2016.. Chicago is an American rock band that was formed true to their namesake, Chicago, Illinois in the late 60s. In reality, their music is a fusion of rock, jazz and funk. This is not surprising since outside of New Orleans, Chicago was a jazz haven. It all started in Chicago during Prohibition when jazz was introduced into the Speakeasies. Early on the band experimented and did more free-form jazz/funk at their live shows, which was captured on their live 4 record album set, Chicago at Carnegie Hall. Later, they refined their sound and this is when they really exploded on the music scene. In the late 70 and early 80s they became a stadium band, but in reality I believe they are best in smaller venues, like tonight, where they can interact with the audience.
Tonight’s line-up included original band members Robert Lamm (Keyboards and Vocals), Lee Loughnane (Trumpet and Vocals) and James Pankow (Trombone). They are joined by Jeff Coffey (Bass and Vocals), Ray Herrmann (Woodwinds), Tris Imboden (Drums), Keith Howland (Guitar and Vocals), Lou Pardini (Keyboards and Vocals) and Walfredo Reyes, Jr. (Percussion).
The concert was over 2 hours of their greatest hits that consisted of 2 sets and an encore. The show started with Introduction and Questions 67 and 68 from their original album. Robert and Jeff’s vocals were great and Lee, James and Ray were amazing. Jeff and Keith played acoustic guitar for If You Leave Me Now and Another Rainy Day in New York City. The first set concluded with Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon which contains subparts that included Make Me Smile and Colour My World. After a 15 minute intermission, the band returned with Old Days and Does Anyone Know What Time It Is. Later Robert came out front and played acoustic guitar and lead vocals for Beginnings. During I’m A Man, Tris and Walfredo did a drum/percussion solo where they played off each other. The second set concluded with Saturday In The Park and Feelin’ Stronger Everyday with the audience dancing and singing along. The band came back for a 2 song encore, Free and 25 or 6 to 4.
For me the “horn and sax section” with Lee, James and Ray was the highlight. Since they are such a major part of Chicago’s sound, it is nice to see them take center stage. Their interaction with each other and the audience really made the show. I was lucky enough to take my wife to the show who is a huge Chicago fan, and she loved the show. These guys look like they are having fun and really enjoy performing and the audience responds in kind. If you are a Chicago fan, then this show is definitely worth seeing especially if you get a chance to see them at a small venue.
Review and photos by Fred Kuhlman
Promoter: Danny Zelisko Presents
Photos © Fred Kuhlman 2016
Set List, Side 1: (Album)
Introduction (Chicago Transit Authority)
Questions 67 and 68 (Chicago Transit Authority)
Dialogue (Part I & II) (Chicago V)
Alive Again (Hot Streets)
Wake Up Sunshine (Chicago II)
Call On Me (Chicago VII)
(I’ve Been) Searchin’ So Long (Chicago VII)
Mongonucleosis (Chicago VII)
If You Leave Me Now (Chicago X)
Another Rainy Day in New York City (Chicago X)
Look Away (Chicago 19)
Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon (Chicago II)
Make Me Smile
Colour My World
Set List, Side 2:
Old Days (Chicago VIII)
Does Anyone Know What Time It Is (Chicago Transit Authority)
Hard Habit To Break (Chicago 17)
You’re the Inspiration (Chicago 17)
Beginnings (Chicago Transit Authority)
I’m A Man (Drum Solo) (Chicago Transit Authority)
Street Player (Chicago 13)
Just You n’ Me (Chicago VI)
Hard to Say I’m Sorry / Get Away (Chicago 16)
Saturday In The Park (Chicago V)
Feelin’ Stronger Everyday (Chicago VI)
Free (Chicago III)
25 or 6 to 4 (Chicago II)