Chicago in Concert

August 4, 2018 Categories: Blog

On Wednesday night, I saw the band Chicago play at the BB&T Pavilion, Camden, New Jersey.

REO Speedwagon opened with hits from their run in the eighties. The on-stage energy was high but they never did get the sound quite right with echo and excess gain taking away any chance for the subtle accents to be heard. The volume was simply too high creating a muddy middle range that kept anything sweet from escaping.

Chicago took the stage after a short break with a 27-song performance. Their sound was nearly perfect apart from the odd echo which seemed unavoidable at this venue. They started with “Make Me Smile” and ran through several more hits before launching into their second album “Chicago II” in its entirety. I think most fans including myself were unaware the band would be playing a complete album, which brought some quiet as the audience settled into this part of the show.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear “Chicago II” and really appreciated how the band brought life to each song. These are complex pieces of music not easily played live and yet the band took the time to get it right. To me it seemed as though the heart and soul of the band lay beating on the stage for all to see. There simply wasn’t anything more they could infuse into this part of the show. Favorites for me were “Wake up Sunshine” , “Where do we do From Here ” and “Make Me Smile” (with intro).

Written and recorded in 1970, “Chicago II” is a masterpiece that offered protest, love and as Chicago always suggest a chance to heal through music. Fans of their music love the big sound of the horns and the subtle piano and flute that show the many moods of a song. Chicago has a way of blending sharps and flats in a way that helps the listener wrestle with a lyric before rolling upward into a magical crescendo.

No album offered more of this intense sullen chemistry than “Chicago II,” with its many powerful messages. I was very moved as they played this period piece, periodically showing historical video from era to include the band themselves. James Pankow, trombone player and founding member of the band came to the mic during this set to ask how we were doing and promised all the big radio hits were coming soon. Robert Lamm, another founding member, singer and piano player spoke as well, saying he never imagined playing “Chicago II” in 2018. Lamm went on to talk about Terry Kath a founding band member, vocals and guitar who died in 1978. And, how Terry infused “Chicago II” with his heart and soul, telling us that everything the band has done since this record was because of it.

As a fan of Chicago, it was a special night to be in the audience, to see the band so excited to be touring America and offering their version of strength, hope, and healing.

The band continued after the tribute to their second album to play 11 more songs including “Beginnings, Dialogue (part I and II), Saturday in the Park along with other popular songs from their catalog.

Having seen Chicago several times over many years, I have not been part of a more moving and inspired show. If you are thinking about checking out a show along the remainder of this tour, you will not be disappointed!

September 11, 2018 the band is in Kingston, Ontario

The setlist for the New Jersey Show (see link)

Band Website “Chicago

By Tom Kelly

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