Chicago/The Doobie Brothers Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion June 26, 2010
At many classic rock shows, there's no phrase more guaranteed to start a run on bathroom and beer lines than "And now here's something from our new record." But you know what? Classic Rock Bob wants to hear new material, along with the big radio hits and a few choice deep album cuts. If all you're interested in is a greatest-hits jukebox, stay home and play your CDs.
And while they could have done a full showering of just the hits - even without any Michael McDonald-era material - the Doobie Brothers delivered all three of those aspects. Their raucous, joyful set was spearheaded by fiery and energetic singer/guitarist Tom Johnston, belying his 61 years ("He's the reason I started playing guitar!" Classic Rock Brother informed us at the start of the set). Keyboardist Guy Allison even sported a Houston Astros shirt.
After opening with two familiar numbers to get the blood pumping, the Doobs hit three straight songs from their upcoming new record, World Gone Crazy: A re-worked version of "Nobody" (the first track off their 1971 debut), the funky, danceable title track about New Orleans, and the bluesy, ballsy rocker "Back to the Chateau," which allowed longtime guitarist John McFee to show off his bottleneck chops. If these songs are any indication for the Sept. 24 release, the record should be a killer.
Hardcore fans got a treat with "Clear as the Driven Snow" (from The Captain and Me) and A cover of Sonny Boy Williamson's "Don't Start Me to Talkin'" (from Toulouse Street), which led into a blues jam that actually jammed and didn't overstay its welcome.
Singer/guitarist Patrick Simmons - an original/classic lineup member, along with Johnston - got the crowd up with "Black Water" (not failing to name check the city/state of the show as usual), and then Johnston's party-perfect "China Grove." The only weak spot was their cover of '60s soul classic "Little Bitty Pretty One," to which the band remains mysteriously devoted to for some reason.
But if Los Hermanos de Sustanivo pleased fans of all levels, Chicago turned in such a shockingly slick and poor performance that Mayor Richard Daley may petition the band to change its name to avoid embarrassment. Even disgraced former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich isn't returning the band's calls.
Things got off promisingly with the complete "Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon" suite from Chicago II (which includes "Make Me Smile" and beginning piano student favorite "Colour My World"), but quickly went downhill into something more resembling Chicago Karaoke Night.
Original/classic members Robert Lamm (keyboards/vocals), James Pankow (trombone) and Lee Loughnane (trumpet) were onstage - Walt Parazaider (sax, flute) was MIA for this show. Lamm stopped the show to plug the Web site, talk about the band's dedication to fighting breast cancer and introduce a woman who had pledged enough funds to the American Cancer Society to sit in with the band on "If You Leave Me Now." Worthwhile cause for sure, but as for her vocals and stage presence... let's just say she looked great in short shorts.
Vocal head-scratching continued as guitarist Keith Howland and new keyboardist Lou Pardini sang many of Lamm and vocalist/bassist Jason Scheff's regular songs and parts. Scheff was clearly having vocal challenges this night, struggling and failing to hit high notes and performing with all the passion of a robot.
And while the band showed some fire on "Beginnings," "I'm a Man" and at least ably delivered crowd favorite "Saturday in the Park," the bulk of the show was leaden, plodding, soulless, and run on autopilot.
As they did last year with Earth, Wind and Fire, Chicago brought their openers back onstage for an onslaught of classic rock warhorses - which those who'd left during the headliner's set (and Aftermath saw several dozen just on his side) miss out on. It clearly helped Chicago up their game, with "Travel Suite: Free," "Listen to the Music" and "25 or 6 to 4" standing out. It's just too bad that the meat in middle of this concert sandwich was pure baloney.
Bonus Classic Rock Bob Rant!
I overheard this several times at the show. But people- stop bitching about Peter Cetera not being in Chicago! Jesus Christ, he left in 1985! Jason Scheff has now been with the band for seven years longer than the Karate Kid-theme singing vocalist. How'd you like to be known as "not the guy I really wanted to see" for your entire goddamn career!
Sure, I'd like to see Cetera do a reunion tour before the band has to be wheeled onstage. But I'd also like to see Steve Perry with Journey. Hell, I'd like to see Lowell George back with Little Feat! But barring sorcery to raise the dead, that's not gonna happen. Just give Jason Scheff a break, please, and stop whining. At least he's never done a duet with Amy Grant.
SET LISTS DOOBIE BROTHERS Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me a Little While) Jesus is Just Alright Nobody World Gone Crazy Back to the Chateau Clear as the Driven Snow Don't Start Me To Talkin' Little Bitty Pretty One Black Water Long Train Runnin' China Grove Without You
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CHICAGO Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon Suite: (including Make Me Smile/So Much to Say, So Much to Give/Anxiety's Moment/West Virginia Fantasies/Colour My World/To Be Free/Now More Than Ever) Dialogue (Parts 1 & 2) If You Leave Me Now Call on Me Old Days Medley: Hard Habit to Break/You're the Inspiration Beginnings I'm a Man Just You 'n Me Saturday in the Park Hard to Say I'm Sorry/Get Away Feelin' Stronger Every Day
BOTH BANDS Rockin' Down the Highway Travel Suite: Free Takin' it to the Streets Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is? Listen to the Music 25 or 6 to 4