I attended two show last weekend, the Township Auditorium in Columbia (3/18) and the Peace Center in Greenville (3/19). Collectively, the greatest Chicago shows I have ever seen, and I think it is a very special time for the band, reinvigorated vocally with Jeff Coffey. I have always loved the Horns, and right now, Chicago's vocals are absolutely perfect too.
I consider myself very lucky to have seen three founding members, hearing Robert singing his classics with a voice just as resonant and soulful as ever. The energy of Lee and Jimmy is amazing, each going to the edge of the stage to play their solos with so much power and tone. I'm a huge fan of Walter's work and miss him very much, and to hear Ray Herrmann play all the woodwind and recreate that chemistry and be his own player too is truly amazing. The soprano solo in Just You 'N' Me was a highlight of the shows, as I love the opportunity to hear him stretch out and get a little dissonant. It is beautiful to see them all enjoy playing and having so much fun.
Lou Pardini and Jeff Coffey, both interpret the classics with authenticity, singing them just as fresh as what you hear on their records. I even liked some of their vocals better than the originals! Look Away, which starts off in the unplugged set is one of those, and Lou got an amazing response from the audience.. then the full band comes in and plays that song with more power than it ever had! Jeff is a rock tenor with a clear and powerful voice, who can sing a sweet ballad or hard rocker with equal grace. He is just perfect for the band and their repertoire. Keith rocked it. His guitar tones are updated classic retro and fit the songs so well too. The power of Tris and Wally is something that you need to hear in person. If you've seen the documentary, you know about the famous drum solo.. but live you feel it!
The setlist, full of hits and some album tracks was perfect, with some very dramatic moments. Kicking off with Introduction, Terry Kath's classic with Robert singing out front sets the energy for the whole night. The first night I heard Wake Up Sunshine, never hearing a full band version of it before, was a trip back in time to the 1960s when Robert wrote it, evoking that era of time in an updated arrangement. I know my jaw was on the floor for all of Ballet, especially West Virginia Fantasies with Ray and Lee playing counterpoint. We are so lucky to have the opportunity to hear a seven-movement rock suite played live, something that goes beyond the whole idea of what classic rock can be. To sum up, I am in awe of Chicago right now and how they are at the top of their game musically while celebrating their 50th anniversary. Everyone - go see their show!