Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2016 inductees Chicago blew through NEO Saturday night. The almost-fifty year old outfit played to a sold-out Hard Rock Rocksino crowd who spent much of its time on their feet, applauding the songs that have been a mainstay of American music since the days preceding Woodstock.
Starting as a politically-charged band in the late 1960s, the band morphed with the times and started producing softer music, culminating with the ballads of huge albums Chicago 17 and Chicago 19.
As the industry started to shift to the “Seattle Sound” movement of the early ’90s and the continuing trend towards urban music, Chicago has maintained its presence, releasing eleven more albums since 1988’s Chicago 19.
Saturday’s show was a greatest hits collection showcasing the band from its earliest hits such as “25 or 6 to 4” and “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It is?” to the ballads of the mid ’80s, such as “You’re the Inspiration” and “Hard Habit to Break.”
Jason Scheff, the longtime vocalist who replaced Peter Cetera upon his departure prior to Chicago 18, has taken a leave of absence this summer. His replacement, Jeff Coffey, filled in on the bass and vocal duties that Scheff vacated. Although Coffey did a fine job, and I’m sure many audience members didn’t even notice the switcheroo, Scheff’s absence was noteworthy because he brings a gravitas to the band and, ironically, was not inducted into the Rock Hall as a member of Chicago this past April. Even though he has served as the bass player and vocalist for over thirty years, twice that of Peter Cetera, who was inducted, the nominating committee failed to include Scheff as a fully-fledged member of the band.
It’s difficult to review a show like Saturday night’s and not be anything less than praiseworthy. This is a band whose “newest” members have been with the band for several years, natch, decades even.
Their patented “Wall of Sound” from the horn section is perfect in its delivery. How many bands have a horn section? How many make those horns a large part of their musical identity? Founding member Jimmy Pankow, on trombone, slinks across that stage with the virtuosity and a silkiness to his movement that a man a third of his age would admire. Oh yeah, and he turned 69 on Saturday.
So, in regard to birthdays and anniversaries let’s hope Chicago goes on for another thirty years. They’re a band that exists so infrequently in today’s music landscape: consummate pros who have this down to a science and give concert goers a show worthy of the money that’s plunked down to see them.