In Concert

Alas, another band we as music fans must bid farewell to in 2016, The Go Go’s have called it quits after a run that has spanned five decades since their inception in 1978. Currently saying their goodbyes on their Going, Going Gone Farewell Tour, The Go Go’s now join a slew of other 2016 retirees such as Black Sabbath, Kenny Rogers, Motley Crue, Sandi Patty and The Who. Slated as possibly the most successful all-female band of our time, Chicago area fans got to see the new-wave-pop driven California band one last time when The Go Go’s performed at Ravinia Festival over the weekend. With most band members now in their mid to late fifties, their youthful spirit and magnetic charm were still ever apparent, their musicianship polished and their set as exciting as it was in the 1980’s. 

 

Opening acts Kaya Stewart then Best Coast set the tone nicely for the evening, Stewart more eclectic and the latter more Rock N’ Roll, though it couldn’t be soon enough for The Go Go’s to take the stage. And once they did, the band wasted little time before diving into their opening number “Vacation”, one of their most successful hits (you remember that crazy water skiing video). In a set that not only included the band’s top forty singles “We Got the Beat” and “Our Lips Our Sealed” (which I embarrassingly used to sing as “Honest Lucille”), The Go Go’s lit it up with a handful of cover tunes including The Sparks’ “Cool Places” and The Capitols “Cool Jerk”. The band also performed a couple songs from the very early days that had never made it onto their records and played a beautiful version of Belinda Carlisle’s solo hit “Mad About You”. 

 

And the band looked and sounded great. Did I mention that?

 

Singer Belinda Carlisle swayed beautifully to the music, throwing in some of her well-known, carefree go-go-esque moves and sounded, well…amazing. Carlisle was radiant, exuding the same fun nature that captured Go Go fans when they really broke out in the early 1980's.  At the same time, spunky rhythm guitarist Jane Wiedlin was a ball of energy, still exhibiting the major band presence Go Go’s fan have become acquainted with over the years. Whether spinning in circles, jetting across the stage, interacting with the crowd or playing on her back, Wiedlin had no shortage of oomph, assuring fans that her Vitamin B intake is quite plentiful. Gina Schock was rock steady on the drums and Charlotte Caffey impressed with guitar leads and her prowess on the keyboards, rounding out the band's sound.  

 

But their music wasn’t the only excitement that night. Schock did her best to get the crowd going when she took the microphone and asked those in seats further from the stage to come forward and grab the scattered empties towards the front causing a bit of a stir for a brief moment or two. As security tried to maintain order, Schock chanted “Let them sit! Let them sit!” But Ravinia’s staff handled it well and a few lucky fans got an instant ticket upgrade. Despite the momentary chaos, the band clicked and the fans ate it up. 

 

Taking their first bow after a fulfilling fifteen songs worth of material, The Go Go’s quickly returned wrapping the night up with Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” before ending on what many consider to be their best song of all, “Head Over Heels.”

 

The Go Go's really made their mark in music history and when you think of all the female fueled bands since to which The Go Go's paved the way it's not just an extraordinary achievement, it's an enrichment to one of the truest art forms that exists. But all good things come to an end sometime. After seeing them perform, it's easy to see that they could still have plenty of productive years ahead as a band. However, when it's time to go, it's time to Go Go.  

 

This final Go Go’s tour seemed to be made for Ravinia and for the band’s fans who missed this show, well…you really missed out on a special farewell. Thumbs up, Go Go’s!

 

Published in In Concert

Expectations for what you might see in a concert are not always what turn out to be the reality of the situation. On my way to Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, I knew I was going to see two legendary guitar players in their respective fields. Let’s just say any preconceived notions I may have had regarding a strong showing by Buddy Guy and Jeff Beck were dismissed several times throughout this fine Sunday evening.

 

First, I assumed Buddy Guy would be opening for Jeff Beck. However, Beck took the stage first, opening with a track from his latest release Loud Hail. The song starts, vocals are heard, but no one on stage is singing. Then a woman dressed in what could be described as some kind of military uniform singing through a megaphone appears as she strolls down the aisle. She eventually gets on stage and joins the band. Now, this really wasn’t that strange for a Jeff Beck show. He has been dabbling in different genres most of his career.

 

Beck alternated between new album cuts and some of his classics like Freeway Jam. Somewhere around the fifth or sixth song a different vocalist appears and to the crowd’s approval, it was veteran Jimmy Hall who has worked with Jeff many times. Their performance of “Morning Dew” was highly inspiring and raised some goose bumps on Beck’s avid fans in attendance. “Morning Dew” was written during the turbulent 1960’s with a post apocalyptic theme. There seemed to be a bit of a theme during the show. I have always considered Jeff Beck to be a man of peace, and he conveyed this subtle message in his selections.

 

As for Beck’s guitar playing? Well, a musician in his league never disappoints in that department. Some people have claimed JB to be the best guitar player out there. Even though that I find that an impossible title to hold, he is certainly high on the list. Now here is a guy known for flashy guitar playing yet he doesn’t waste a note. We have had so many technically gifted guitar players come and go through the years, so what makes a guy like him so appealing? One word, melody. If someone claimed Jeff was the most melodic guitar player, I just might have to agree. Some say brilliant instrumentalists are often frustrated singers and when Beck plays, it is akin to a human voice. He doesn’t even use a pick anymore. This man’s music is what happens when you give someone an amazing ear uniquely interpreting each melody on a Stratocaster. Beck’s encore was his take on The Beatles’ “A Day In The Life” to which he played the vocal lines on the guitar just like a singer. His voice is the guitar.

 

After Beck’s stirring set, I was sitting there thinking, “How is Buddy Guy gonna top that?” Buddy is Buddy, that’s what he is. He has been quoted as saying that’s all he can do is be himself. That’s just fine in my book. A true artist’s personality comes out in their art, no matter what the area. Guy is often manic but just so down to earth that you end up falling in love with the man before the show is over. He celebrated his 80th birthday just the day before. That’s correct, 80 years old! But Guy didn’t show his age and displayed the energy of a much younger man.

 

Guy’s attitude on stage is incredible. I have never met Buddy myself but have heard that off the stage he is a pretty shy guy. He’s just one of those artists whose true self only comes out when performing. Look out and be prepared as Guy’s shows are basically unscripted for the most part. He admitted he had no set list though his band was obviously prepared for what he was doing. His performance is almost like Buddy thinking out loud. He jumps from one thing to another.   

   

I consider Buddy to be one of the last real showmen of the Blues. His roots go back to Muddy Waters. Those old Blues cats always know how to entertain. Buddy used to do a trick back in the old club days where he would use a super long guitar cord and go out into the audience while playing. Now a wireless system makes things so much easier. Guy walked off the stage and kept going though a good portion of the pavilion at Ravinia, twice passing my way.

 

Guy was joined by Beck on one song and another featured two of his kids, one on vocals the other on guitar. The last portion of his show was Buddy teasing the audience playing just bits of a bunch of old Blues songs that weighed heavily as his musical influences. A true entertainer leaves the audience satisfied but wanting more. This was definitely the case.

 

Did Buddy Guy top Jeff Beck? Well, maybe not by his guitar playing alone. The performance actually made you forget the opening act while he was on stage. Like the title of his opening number, Buddy was “Born to Play the Guitar”. Jeff Beck was too, but Buddy was also born to entertain. At 80-years-old, won’t be performing forever, my advice being to see him while you still can. He is really one of the only living links to the old Blues cats left. After him, it’s mostly the English Blues players like Clapton. And who is Eric Clapton’s favorite guitar player? Buddy Guy. On July 31, 2016, Buddy Guy was mine was too.

Published in In Concert

On a night that threatened heavy rains, the weather ultimately cooperated instead delivering a dreamy summer night for Kenny Rogers to the Ravinia Festival one last time as the seventy-seven-old legendary singer is calling it quits after a musical career that has lasted well over half a century. The pavilion was filled and picnickers were spread out all along the Ravinia grounds.

The tour, appropriately titled “The Gambler’s Last Deal”, is a timeline through Rogers celebrated run that starts off with his music from the 1960’s with The First Edition (later named Kenny Rogers and the First Edition as his popularity grew). Throughout the show Rogers takes on the role of a storyteller providing details about each decade’s musical transitions, adding little known tidbits of fun facts and plenty of humor. Throughout each story and song, jumbo screens project performance videos from each era (including an Ed Sullivan appearance) along with a slew of personal footage of his life. 

Country star Linda Davis assists Rogers on this farewell tour, taking on a couple songs on her own and filling in on duet parts by such as Dottie West. Davis was able to add a bit of mobility to the show as Rogers was mostly confined to sitting on a stool due to recent knee surgery. “Sorry folks. I need to apologize. I just had a knee replacement and I think they replaced the wrong knee,” Rogers joked as he slowly walked onto the stage.

As for the hits, Rogers played most including “Something’s Burning”, “Love Lifted Me”, “Lady”, “Heroes” and the one that he explained really propelled his career, “Lucille”. Rogers even threw in a couple verses of “We Are the World” of which he participated in the 1980’s along with such stars as Paul McCartney, Michael Jackson, Rick Springfield and so many others.  

A portion of the show went into Rogers’ days as an actor. Besides several television appearances as a guest host, including spots on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and The Muppets, Rogers starred in more than a handful of films, probably most notably The Gambler of which the title song was one of the show’s highlights. 

“Not long ago a fan approached me after a show and said ‘I didn’t know you were an actor’. I told him, ‘I’ve got fourteen films that prove I wasn’t an actor’”, Rogers laughed. 

“The Gamblers Last Deal” is a fantastic look into the history of Kenny Rogers music and leaves little doubt the effect he has had on the country music scene. Expectedly so, Rogers’ voice wasn’t as strong as it was in his earlier days, but his unique sound was. And for the Kenny Rogers fans in attendance, that was more than enough, several standing ovations throughout to prove it.

Kenny Rogers followed opening act The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, who also delivered an inspired set to the packed venue, providing the perfect musical complement to the famous singer. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band effectively set the mood for a night of fun music dishing out their own favorites, including “Mr. Bojangles” then Rogers put the exclamation point on the evening’s entertainment with an entertaining show of his own. After a well-rounded set of music and storytelling, Linda Davis and Kenny Rogers finally ended the show with an energy packed version of “Blaze of Glory”, leaving the legend’s followers with a night to remember.

 

         

 

Published in In Concert

It is rare indeed when one goes to see a concert featuring a total of fifteen musicians, yet only one instrument is played all night.  This is what you would’ve been in for if you caught the mutualistic pairing of Sweet Honey In The Rock with Ladysmith Black Mambazo this past Monday at Ravinia.  Both a cappella groups have been around for over 40 years and show no signs of slowing down, though they have rearranged their membership occasionally.  Together on this balmy night in Highland Park, they put on a moving and impressive show...their blending voices as refreshing as the evening breeze.

 

Experiencing Sweet Honey In The Rock is like having four female Bobby McFerrins on stage at the same time.  Whether scatting drum beats, mimicking horn blasts, or singing soaring leads, each member contributed equally in creating a big sound full of dense gospel harmonies.  Their fifth member is longtime sign language interpreter, Shirley Childress, who signed and gyrated with gusto, even trading licks with the only instrumentalist of the night, bassist Romeir Mendez. Their original songs featured poignant tales about civil rights and injustice, honing in on recent killings in the news, then they would follow up with uplifting call-and-response chants of peace and love.  At times, it got a little awkward due to the lack of the audience’s willingness to sing out on the touchy topics, but things relaxed when they treated us to a stirring cover of jazz standard and Nina Simone hit, “Feeling Good.”  While the heavy repertoire and bass solos may have been too much for some, these “Honeys” are still a force to be reckoned with.

 

Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s sound is immediately recognizable and one-of-a-kind.  This nine-piece, all-male vocal group has been around since the late 60’s, making their biggest splash backing Paul Simon on his seminal Graceland album in 1986.  Featuring traditional South African Zulu lyrics, rhythms and harmonies, the depth and power of their music can make your hair stand on end, as mine did often that night.  Quaking low drones blended seamlessly with pitch-perfect falsettos, at times accented by intricate bird calls and the tell-tale clicks of the Zulu language.  Like Sweet Honey, their songs switched from serious issues such as apartheid to more joyous stories of young love and discovery.  In addition to the incredible music, I was equally impressed by their synchronized and athletic dance routines.  All the members, including one who joined back in 1969, were doing repeated head-high leg kicks that would make the Rockettes proud, singing all the while.  This was all rounded out by their charming stories and cheeky banter in between songs.  It was obvious that these men were truly enjoying themselves onstage and their enthusiasm was infectious.  As I circled the grounds numerous times trying to stroll my three-year-old to sleep, I saw nothing but smiles all around.  For those, like me, who were not familiar with their music outside of Graceland, this had no bearing once each song began.  Despite the language barrier, a short synopsis in English before each song from alternating members was enough to let your imagination fill in the blanks.  The biggest treat of the night was probably when we got to hear “Homeless” from Graceland, penned by Paul Simon and LBM’s founder, Joseph Shabalala. They ended their set with a counting of their blessings as a group and a heartfelt thank you to the audience and their supporters.  It was a fitting end to a wonderful concert.  Ladysmith Black Mambazo is a class act and international treasure that is a must for any musical bucket list.

 

Published in In Concert
Wednesday, 06 July 2016 16:57

Jazz Holiday with the Great Chick Corea

I have been a fan of Chick Corea ever since I picked up a Return to Forever album sometime around 1983. Twenty-three years or so later, I was finally able to see him perform – the venue being Ravinia Festival. Corea has been involved in the Jazz scene for fifty years or more and at seventy-five-years-young, he can keep up with someone half his age. 

 

Starting off the triple bill on the evening of July Fourth was Ms. Lisa Fischer and Grand Baton. Theirs was a Jazz on the mellower side though some interesting cover material was chosen to perform. I have never heard Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” played in such a manner before. They also covered two different Rolling Stones songs, “Jumping Jack Flash” and “Gimme Shelter”. Arrangements on these particular songs were quite different than the originals as you might imagine. I must say Fischer’s voice was quite good. Her intonation was amazing. She and her band seemed to drop the word love in every song, very refreshing. After watching her performance, I can only conclude that Ms. Fischer appears to be a peaceful spirit in human form. 

 

The second set was the headlining act, the Chick Corea Trio. Always surrounding himself with talented musicians, Christian McBride was on bass and Brian Blade on drums. Both complimented Chick’s piano playing very well. McBride was a very fluent soloist on upright bass and was somewhat reminiscent of Stanley Clarke in terms of chops, while maintaining his own identity. Brain Blade was equally astounding to say the least. Chick seems to have a knack for finding some of the best players around. I’m sure his reputation attracts the attention of some fine players who line up at the chance to share the stage with such a musical legend. Throughout the entire set Corea played a grand piano. Corea’s chops were so fluid, it’s hard to believe a man of that age still has the hands to pull that off. Fans were in awe during the whole set.

 

Then it was big band time. It was interesting to see Corea in the two different settings. Bass, drums and twelve horns accompanied Chick on the final set of the holiday evening. Corea called out the names of every song and gave credit to the person who did each particular arrangement. If you love horns, it was Heaven. He even touched on a Return to Forever song, making it sound like a fresh new song. Each of the horn players had at least one featured solo, as well. Trumpets, trombones, saxophones and even flute solos were of the highest caliber. Corea didn’t hold back on the last set either. I felt he got better as the night went along, almost as though he may have just been warming up.

 

Jazz is almost a lost art form. I have said that before. It is so nice to see music still being performed by real musicians. The only issue I sometimes have with Jazz audiences is that they applaud after every solo. I guess this is a tradition but I would prefer they would wait until the end of the song. Still, they are usually deserving of the recognition it’s just that sometimes you miss the start of the next solo because of the applause. 

 

Take the opportunity to go see some live Jazz before all the great ones are gone. Ravinia is still to host some amazing Jazz acts this season. The tradition continues, but the real guys are all getting up there in age. At seventy-five, Chick Corea is at the younger end of the age spectrum.

 

Published in In Concert

Amazing times can be had at a live production. Summer concerts can be especially nice; the sun is setting, the crowd is excited, and the opening act is about to take the stage. This particular musical presentation couldn’t have gone much better. 

Opening the show was blues legend, Charlie Musselwhite. The talented musician came out blowing the harp and he gave it all he had. His entire performance was just fantastic, warming up the crowd on a chilly summer night. The audience was certainly amped and ready for the “Space Cowboy”, as the seats and picnic area were already well occupied for this amazing guitar man. 

The Steve Miller Band then took over and hit the crowd right between the eyes with “Jungle Love”, “Take the Money and Run”, and “Abracadabra”, and that was just for starters. If Miller’s performance wasn’t thrilling enough, the place really exploded with excitement when Charlie Musselwhite was invited out to join in on a few bluesy songs. They did a few old cover songs from Little Walter and Freddie King. It was a very memorable time for everyone. 

Longtime fan, Ron Marten says, “I became a fan in 1976 when I was six-years-old. My mom had just bought an 8-track player and joined Columbia house. She was stiffed with this 8-track that was the selection of the month, Fly Like an Eagle. At that time, I was really into the "Space Intro". She couldn’t send it back now. It was part of my nursery rhymes.  We ended up playing the hell out of it.”

Miller’s set continued on with more hits; hit after hit after hit! The night couldn’t be better for any true fan of Steve Miller. He performed very well and his sound is always top notch.  Highland Park was truly fortunate to get an act like this playing in their backyard. 

One fan, however, seemed disappointed during an intro the song "Wintertime". “That was the Window!” he shouted. He turned about to his friends and joined in singing, “In the wintertime ……….”. His mood couldn’t be ruined. 

Steve Miller brought out all of his classics that he could including “Serenade”, “The Joker”, “Fly Like an Eagle”, and closed his triumphant set out with another favorite “Jet Airliner”. Not a single fan in the crowd could be disappointed with the set list. Seeing this man live is like flipping on a radio. Instantly the ear candy is something you know and it hits you hard. 

Ravinia Festival in Highland Park is the place to be to see a live act and who could possibly be better than Steve Miller?                    

 

Published in In Concert

Frank Sinatra Jr. opened his wonderful tribute show at Ravinia Festival in Highland Park by explaining what he hoped to convey, as he had been writing and collecting the photographs and videos for the last two years.

 

"In order to know a man’s life there is one word that must supersede everything,” Sinatra says. “And that word is truth. You are going to see the glittering lights. You are going to see the soaring mountain peaks. But you are also going to see the depths. You’re going to see the chasms.”

 

“There was a time in his career many years ago when his entire world – his work, his movies, his television, his records, his marriage, his personal life – everything fell apart completely,” Sinatra says. “And that is going to be shown in our show.”

 

First of all I was unaware that Sinatra had a son capable of singing as well as Sinatra Jr. does. Many times I closed my eyes and imagined with no difficulty that I was hearing the original recordings of all these magnificent songs as recorded by Sinatra himself.  All of the multimedia pieces were chosen with great care and presented a very moving, well-paced  and well-rounded story of Sinatra's life and indeed the life of all New Yorkers' and even all Americans who lived during Sinatra's career ups and downs.  The show reminded me of another great father son tribute, the play “Jack Lemmon Returns” by Jack Lemmon's son, Chris Lemmon.

 

There was an unnecessarily melancholy and almost apologetic air to Sinatra Jr.'s performance and also the fact that he never referred to Frank during the show as his father or "dad" struck me as very sad and the following quote explains why that is.

 

In interviews Frank Jr. repeatedly speaks of how his own life ‘is immaterial’, adding: “I’ve never been a success. I have never had a hit movie, a hit television program, a hit record. It would have been good for my personal integrity, my personal dignity to have had something like that. I have never made a success in terms of my own right. I have been very good at re-creation. But that is something that pleases me because my father’s music is so magnificent."

 

But I wholeheartedly disagree with Sinatra Jr.'s summation of his career. Although he may not have received any awards yet, this engrossing and educational tribute to his father stands on its own as a wonderful and well-crafted, musical production. 

 

Sinatra Jr. didn't have much time with his father as a child due to early divorce yet he devoted seven years of his life, working 24/7 to managing his ailing and genius father during Sinatra's last decade on earth. His efforts gave us an additional seven years of Sinatra live performances which is a huge contribution to the history of music and his fans worldwide. 

 

Sinatra Jr. doesn't just imitate his father, or impersonate him, his voice has a rich timbre and phrasing all his own that bleeds through the performance in just the right amounts.

 

Imagine if Elvis Presley had had a son who resembled him physically to a degree and more importantly was a college music major capable of playing and singing the music Elvis made famous for decades after his death. Wouldn't we consider that a great achievement in its own right? 

 

I heard many people during the intermission say just how much they were enjoying the show and that Sinatra Jr.'s storytelling and choice of photos and video, etc., really surpassed their expectations for the concert - and I felt the same way. We saw an impressive timeline that included the Rat Pack, Nancy Sinatra, various films and private family photos. Sinatra Jr. also flawlessly performed one favorite after another and really hit the mark on his beautiful rendition of "My Way".

 

Sinatra Jr.'s Centennial Celebration is a wonderful work of art and the amazing choice of talented musicians in his outstanding orchestra made this theatrical experience more than just a trip down memory lane. 

 

Sinatra Jr. has achieved something more in this production than mere imitation or tribute. He has created a highly entertaining and moving audience experience, partly because he is talented in his own right and partly because he has something no Sinatra impersonator will ever have. "The blood of my blood" Sinatra Jr. has  the blood of his genius and powerful father - the evergreen Frank Sinatra - running though his veins which makes the whole audience aware they are in Frank Sinatra's presence as he is surely watching his son proudly from the wings at every performance. 

 

I highly recommend seeing this production and hope that Sinatra Jr. will continue to perform it long after this 100th year birthday celebration hype has settled down again, because Sinatra's story deserves to be told to new generations as well as old and Sinatra Jr. is the only one who can tell it the right way with “the real truth" ringing out between every note. 

 

 

 

Published in In Concert

Santana’s Corazón Tour blew through Chicago as quickly as a summer storm. But for two all-too-brief nights, Santana lit up the Pavilion stage at Ravinia to a sold out crowd of dancing, drinking, smoking, nostalgic concert-goers.

 

For many in the audience, Ravinia was the perfect venue, paying homage to their first time seeing Santana play Woodstock in 1969. Baby boomers swayed and rhumbaed in any space they could find amidst the sold out crowd, unashamed to don twinkling cowboy hats, smoke a joint, and down a glass of cheap merlot. They sang every lyric, grabbed any passerby to salsa with, and threw peace signs to the friendly Ravinia security guards. On the other end of the audience spectrum were young millennials who were introduced to Santana during his resurgence to popularity in the late 1990s, most likely with Santana’s 1999 album Supernatural that included such #TBT favorites as Smooth: https://youtu.be/6Whgn_iE5uc and one of my personal favorite songs, Maria Maria: https://youtu.be/nPLV7lGbmT4. There was not a single person seated in the Pavilion or on the lawn when Maria Maria played. People of every age, race, and gender danced together to the sounds of the guitar, played by the living legend, Carlos Santana.

 

In the unlikely event you have lived under a rock for the past few decades, Santana first became famous in the late 1960s and early 1970s with his band, Santana. The Mexican-American musician pioneered the unique blend of rock and Latin American music that continues to rocks heads, and hips, to this day. He has won 3 Latin Grammy Awards and 10 Grammy Awards, eight alone at the 42nd annual Grammys in 2000. In 2003 Rolling Stone magazine listed Santana as one of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of all time, keeping company with other greats such as Keith Richards, B.B. King, Eric Clapton, and Jimi Hendrix. Santana’s latest album, Corazón, proves that he can still throw down with the best of them in the biz and was born to play the guitar. Ravinia audiences were also treated to a special family event when Santana’s son, Salvador Santana, took the stage to play a brief set, proving that talent and dedication to craft runs in the family.

 

 

Ravinia and Santana to together like salt and margaritas. The cool summer night perfectly complimented the cool blend of guitar, timbales and congas. The next time Santana blows through Chicago don’t miss your chance to see him live, and be sure to give the man your heart, make it real or else forget about it.

Published in In Concert
Saturday, 29 August 2015 18:02

ZZ Top Live at Ravinia

An amazing feeling comes over you when going to see a live band outside during the summer. It’s such a treat to be able to attend a show in beautiful landscapes of Ravinia in Highland Park, Illinois. When ZZ Top is in town you know it’s going to be a party.  

On such a beautiful Thursday evening several thousand fans gathered into Ravinia to see that little band from Texas that wallops a big ol' punch. ZZ Top is going to take the stage tonight and you better watch out. The guitar riffs are amazing.

Opening out the night was Blackberry Smoke. Great musicians! Vocally they were just an amazing band. They tore into it with a nice country twang to them that really set your hair on fire.  The influence of Southern rock on this band can be heard. They have an Allman Brother’s feel to them within their big jam band style. Some real great playing was displayed. Great pickers!

The time had come for the main act to come out. The temperature was perfect, the mood was serene, and the crowd was ready. “Got Me Under Pressure” and “Gimme All Your Loving,” were just like the record and tremendous crowd pleasers as well. They brought out the choreographed dance moves and charmed the hell out of a sold out audience. They come complete with matching guitars, beards, hats, and matching attitudes. Bad ass!!

This band seems like it’s been going on forever. Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill, and Frank Beard got ZZ Top going strong and soon had a great following in no time. They had a good career in the 70’s with a few strong hits. Once the 80’s came they added synthesizers and became unstoppable. Each one of these guys was right on the money all night long.  

At Ravinia they displayed their MTV hits, old hits, and never stopped laying down a groove. The crowd was very well organized. Large displays of food, tables, chairs, bottles of wine were everywhere to be seen. Can’t think of a better way to enjoy ZZ Top live than in the plush lawn of Ravinia. It was a perfect setting for songs like, “Jesus just left Chicago”, “Sharp Dressed Man”, “Tush,” and “LaGrange”.

When ZZ Top is in town you know it’s going to be a party.  ZZ Top just played Ravinia and it was amazing. They played a great set that made everyone want more, but what did they leave out?  Nothing.

Published in In Concert
Monday, 24 August 2015 22:51

Sweet Home Chicago

Chances are everybody knows a Chicago song whether they are aware of it or not. It’s nearly impossible to not had at least one of their melodies buzzing through your head at one time or another. When seeing them perform live it is almost amazing to hear how many hits they have manufactured during their heyday from the 1970s through the mid-1980s. After all, the band has received multiple music awards including a Grammy, they have been elected as Founding Artists to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, a star in their honor sits on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and they even have a street in Chicago named after them. Let’s also not forget that their record sales have topped the 100,00,000 mark. Not too shabby. Fortified with a vibrant horn trio, catchy choruses, spot on vocal harmonies and precise musicianship, Chicago is still putting on a highly entertaining shows decades after they released their first album in 1969, Chicago Transit Authority.

Returning once again to the city of the band’s origin, Chicago took the stage at Ravinia Saturday night for one of two nearly sold out performances. With a similar look to the past twenty or so years as far as band members go, Chicago ripped into one classic after another. Co-founders, Robert Lamm (keyboard/vocals), Lee Loughnane (trumpet/vocals) and James Pankow (trombone/vocals) led the march along with Jason Scheff who had joined the band in 1985 as Peter Cetera’s replacement.

The two-hour-plus set consisted of twenty-six songs and was split into two sets - a fifteen minute intermission in the middle. The first set was power-packed and included the hits “If You Leave Me Now”, Will You Still Love Me?”, “Look Away” and “Another Rainy Day in New York City”. As enjoyable as the first set was, the second was even better as one hit was churned out after another such as “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?”, “Hard Habit to Break”, “You’re the Inspiration”, and “Hard to Say I’m Sorry/Get Away” to which to crowd got up from their seats at its energetic end and stood for the remainder of the show.  

Ending on a high note, Chicago finished off the set with “Saturday in the Park” just before the upbeat, feel-good “Feelin’ Stronger Every Day”.    

James Pankow practically put on a show by himself. Continuously strutting, dancing and interacting nonstop with the crowd, the spirited trombone player was key in keeping the energy level high. Pankow successfully proved that trombone players can be as cool – or at least animatedly squirmy - as any other musician. No doubt, the man was fun to watch. Chicago also put on one hell of a drum solo where Tris Imboden and percussionist Walfredo Reyes Jr. fiercely battled each other much to the delight of the audience. And for those wondering, yes, Robert Lamm’s voice was as rich as ever. In all, the components were fully in place for a well-round, and very fun, musical experience.

The band left the crowd with a one-two punch encore of “Free” followed by what is probably their most famous song of all, “25 or 6 to 4”. It would be very difficult to imagine a single person leaving disappointed after such a remarkable performance. As someone who had seen Chicago in 1982, the show was a great blast of the past, while to newer fans or first timers a glimpse into a great era of music that they may have never experienced first-hand.   

A Ravinia favorite for some time, one can only hope for Chicago’s 2016 return.

 

  

Published in In Concert
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