I went to high school and college in the 1970s and 1980s. As a result, the music I prefer is from that time period. And the many concerts I attend are artists and groups from those eras. Recently I had the pleasure of enjoying a band that has been making music for over 50 years: Chicago.
But first, let’s start with the opening act, REO Speedwagon.
The first time I saw REO was in July 2003. I remember thinking at that time that lead singer Kevin Cronin talked a lot! In the 15 years that have elapsed, nothing has changed! However, his talking between songs was showing appreciation to the fans. He acknowledged that without us, there would be no REO Speedwagon. As fans, we pay good money for concert tickets, merchandise, physical media, and streaming services. It’s nice to hear that the artist is aware of this, and recognizes it. Many artists don’t.
REO played their hits, including, “Take It On The Run,” “Roll With The Changes,” “Can’t Fight This Feeling,” and “Keep On Loving You.” REO performed like they wanted to be there, not as if they were begrudgingly fulfilling an obligation. At 66 years old Cronin can still sing the hits like it’s 1980.
The show ended with a tribute to Tom Petty. Cronin told the story of how Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers was his favorite band (as is mine), and that he and Petty were neighbors in Southern California. The band dedicated “Listen To Her Heart” to Petty. REO kept it simple and beautiful.
Chicago was the headliner, and based on the crowd reaction, they were ready to party. But the mood grew quiet as Chicago announced they would be playing their album, Chicago II in its entirety. The only songs most fans recognized were “Make Me Smile,” “Color My World,” and “25 or 6 to 4.” While they sounded great, it was a bit of a bore, as most people, including myself, like to hear the hits from a band that has been around more than 20 years, and in this case, more than 50.
The crowd woke up once the classic rock section began: “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?,” “Beginnings,” “Saturday In The Park,” “If You Leave Me Now.” The brass section, including original members James Pankow and Lee Loughnane, were having the time of their lives, and sounded amazing. Another original member, Robert Lamm, sang with as much enthusiasm as he did when he first performed these songs 40 plus years ago.
The highlight of Chicago’s set was the Spencer Davis Group cover of, “I’m A Man.” Drummer Walfredo Reyes, Jr., and percussionist Ramon Yslas couldn’t have enjoyed themselves more banging on the drums, bongos, tambourine, occasionally trading places without missing a beat.
I would have preferred for Chicago to skip playing the album and focus on the hits. Their catalog is so vast, ranging from rock to brass to pop, that there’s a little something for everyone. While this wasn’t my favorite Chicago concert, if they come back to my area I will be in the audience once again.