Newly-minted 2016 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees Chicago played to a sold-out Packard Music Hall audience on Sunday, February 28th. After playing a Springsteen-esque two-and-a-half hours, many fans in attendance were left wondering: what took the Hall of Fame so long to induct these guys?
I guess good things come for those who wait. But waiting twenty-two years for such a talented group is a bit ridiculous.
The nine-piece band featured three original members: Robert Lamm (keyboard/vocals), Lee Laughnane (trumpet) and the ever-moving James Pankow (trombone), long-time members: Jason Scheff (bass/vocals), Tris Imboden (drums) and Keith Howland (guitar), and more recent members: Lou Pardini (keyboard/vocals), Wilfredo Reyes Jr (percussion) and Ray Herrmann (saxaphone/flute) who was setting in for original member Walter Parazaider who was missing in action.
Chicago’s stage features a huge high-definition screen that sits behind the band as well as several more screens that are in front of the drum and keyboard risers. The bright images that are displayed throughout the show enhance the music rather than becoming the show itself, which is sometimes the case with bands with far less musical talent.
The focal point in Chicago is the incredible wall of sound that the horn section displays on most songs. Unlike most bands, the horns are front and center instead of being regulated to the back corner of the stage. Veteran members Pankow and Laughnane are constantly moving, dancing and interacting with the crowd.
The ensemble played music from each era of their forty-seven year career. The first set featured a mix of songs from the group’s catalog including: “Questions 67 & 68,” “If You Leave Me Now,” and “Call On Me.”
Even their newest single “Now” from their 2015 release Chicago 36 fit nicely in between all of the classic tracks.
In the middle of the first set, each vocalist got to take their turn in the spotlight. First, Jason Scheff sat alone at the keyboard that was brought out to center stage. He sang his first major hit with the band “Will You Still Love Me?” which was released more than 30 years ago.
Robert Lamm was next, but before he went into “Another Rainy Day in New York” he referenced the Hall of Fame by saying that they were “going to leave a little piece of Chicago in Ohio on a permanent basis” in a little over a month, to which the crowd roared in approval.
Finally, Lou Pardini completed the acoustic tri-fecta by playing a rousing version of “Look Away.”
After the acoustic set, the whole band came back out to play the entire “Ballet for a Girl in Buchannan” which includes seven different songs that clocks in at just under 13 minutes.
A brief intermission allowed the band members to get a quick break and change clothes. When they came back, it was time for the “greatest hits” set which got everyone swaying in their seats and eventually up on their feet.
The next fourteen songs were all classic rock staples or top 40 hits. From “Old Days” and “You’re the Inspiration” to “Saturday in the Park” this tight nine-piece ensemble maintained a high energy that is rarely seen in bands half their age.
They are clearly having fun and enjoying themselves on stage.
“25 or 6 to 4” appropriately closed the show because that song summarizes what this band is all about; great musicians who create that wonderful wall of sound.