Chicago blew into town Friday night April 19th with a show of classic hits, some deep cuts, and a well-known cover. The 10-piece band, with three original members, was as tight as ever, complete with intricate arrangements and over-the-top solos.
No doubt, Chicago’s unique strength is its horn section, comprised of original members Lee Loughhnane on trumpet and James Pankow on trombone, along with 1990’s addition Ray Herrmann on saxophone and flute. They were one of the first rock bands to put a horn section front and center, and the brass shine on pretty much every tune.
As mentioned, the hits were enormous. Songs like “Beginnings,” “Feelin’ Stronger Every Day,” and encore “25 or 6 to 4” are legitimate rock and roll classics, and continue to sound great. Many of those hits were written by the third original member Robert Lamm, who ruled the night on keyboards, guitar and vocals.
Other standouts included crowd favorite “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?,” “Make Me Smile” and the life is good masterpiece “Saturday in the Park.” These songs have stood the test of time, and need only minor tweaks for the 21st century.
The band has always taken an egalitarian approach – all members are featured at various points in the show, and all are essential to the overall sound. Drummer Walfredo Reyes, Jr. and percussionist Ramon Ysla shared entertaining solos on the Spencer Davis Group original “I’m a Man.”
From a critical perspective, its usually a tale of two bands with Chicago. There’s the high energy, horn driven, guitar soloing, sing-along band from the 1970’s. Then there’s the 1980’s version, when the band embraced a popular soft rock approach, putting out lyrical ballads that topped the charts.
Tunes like “If You Leave Me Now,” “Hard Habit to Break” and “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” really hit home with the Providence crowd. Everyone has their favorites, and I’ve never been a fan of the ballads, but they blended nicely into the 30-song set, and remain “raise up those cigarette lighter/cell phone” crowd pleasers.
Chicago has always understood the formula for great music. That’s why these songs resonate so well. We recommend checking them out next time they’re in town. Meanwhile, check out some great photos from WURI’s Rick Farrell.