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Review: Chicago @ Artpark, Lewiston, NY

Chicago in Concert (7/31/21)
I saw Chicago four times between 1970 (when they were still the Chicago Transit Authority) and 1976 and, while they were a great band, nobody was going to claim that they were tight or precision instrumentalists.  That can be heard plainly on the live album Chicago IV where the occasional misstep is chronicled for all to hear. 

Last night, at Artpark in Lewiston, NY, the band proved that not only are they still the consummate entertainers but are also now one of the tightest bands on the planet.  No more missed notes on the brass, the three instrumentalists hit every note with enthusiasm and precision rivaling such bands as Earth, Wind and Fire and Tower of Power.  

Now 54 years old, Chicago is also one of the most active bands on the road, not just from number of shows, but also in how the ten members are all over the stage highlighting different members depending on the song.  Nobody has their own position on the stage, save the drummer and percussionist.  Robert Lamm is up on the podium when playing his keyboard but down front with his keytar for "Saturday in the Park".  James Pankow (trombone), Lee Loughnane (trumpet) and Ray Hermann (sax) are offstage for some of the softer numbers, on the rear riser for songs where they are lightly featured and out front as if they were the lead singers on most of the 70's numbers when Chicago was jazz-rock vs. their 80's AC/David Foster days.  

Early in the evening, Lamb stated that they would be playing "all the hits" and, for one of the biggest American groups, that's a tall order but they came very.  From their 70's output, they performed 14 of their 18 top twenty hits (missing "Wishing You Were Here", "Harry Truman", "Baby What a Big Surprise" and "No Tell Lover").  From the 80's, they played four of their eight top tens.

Three original members of the group remain, Lamb, Pankow and Loughnane.  Filling in the rest of the lineup Keith Howland (guitar), who has been with the band for 26 years, Lou Pardini (keyboards and psudo-replacement for the vocals of the late Terry Kath), Brett Simmons (bass), Hermann (sax), Neil Donell, handling the vocals of former member Peter Cetera, and drummer and percussionist Walfredo Reyes, Jr. and Ramon "Ray" Yslas who tore it up during and extended solo during "I'm a Man".  

Along with "all the hits", the band also managed to throw in a few long-time favorite album cuts from the opener "Introduction" to the Latin flavored instrumental "Mongonucleosis" and the bouncy "Wake Up Sunshine" from Chicago II.  Of course, there was also the perennial "Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon" which includes "Make Me Smile" and "Color My World", which closed the first set.  

Along with being a precision band, they were also absolute professionals, actually hitting the stage two minutes before their 7:30 start time, taking an announced 15 minute break in exactly 15 minutes, and finishing up their encore at 9:50, ten minutes before the venue's curfew.   

An evening of great music by charismatic entertainers that shouldn't be missed.  

The set list:

Set 1
  • Introduction
  • Questions 67 & 68
  • Dialogue (Part I & II)
  • Wake Up Sunshine
  • Call on Me
  • (I've Been) Searchin' So Long
  • Mongonucleosis
  • If You Leave Me Now
  • Look Away
  • Ballet For a Girl in Buchannon
    • Make Me Smile
    • So Much to Say, So Much to Give
    • Anxiety's Moment
    • West Virginia Fantasies
    • Colour My World
    • Now More Than Ever
Set 2
  • Alive Again
  • Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?
  • Old Days
  • Hard Habit to Break
  • You're the Inspiration
  • Beginnings
  • I'm a Man
  • Just You 'n' Me
  • Hard to Say I'm Sorry / Get Away
  • Saturday in the Park
  • Feelin' Stronger Every Day (shortened)
  • Free
  • 25 or 6 to 4