Chicago brings well-oiled machine to Mississippi Gulf Coast
Beau Rivage Theater
Friday, May 30
BY JEFF CLARK[wzslider autoplay=”true” lightbox=”true”]
If there is a harder working band than Chicago on the tour circuit, then I have yet to see them. When Chicago rolled into the Beau Rivage Theater on the Mississippi Gulf Coast Friday, May 30, they brought with them a legacy of more than four decades of hit songs and studio albums and the excitement that surrounds the release of an album of all-new material, due out on July 4.
From the opening note of “Introduction,” the first track from “Chicago Transit Authority,” which was recently inducted into the Grammy Album Hall of Fame, founding member Robert Lamm and the band knew exactly what to do and how to keep the audience on their edges of their seats. Keith Howland’s smoking guitar solo only made the song better.
The band dove right back into “Chicago Transit Authority” with one of my favorites, “Questions 67 & 68,” featuring a standout vocal performance from singer/bassist Jason Scheff. Anyone who makes the plea for former vocalist and founding member Peter Cetera hasn’t seen the band perform live over the last almost 30 years since Scheff joined the band. Making the case for Cetera is like wishing that Warren Haynes wasn’t a “replacement” in the Allman Brothers Band. It’s OK to love Cetera’s songs and love Scheff’s contributions as a vocalist, instrumentalist and songwriter in Chicago. They both have played their parts in the band’s long history.
In fact, Friday’s performance in Biloxi was as good as it gets, due in large part to the tightly-wound rhythm section of Scheff, Howland and drummer Tris Imboden. This was Chicago firing on all cylinders, evident in the more than 30 songs performed nonstop in more than two hours.
The hits were plentiful, from “If You Leave Me Now,” to “Alive Again” and “Hard Habit to Break,” which featured alternating vocals from Scheff and the band’s other secret weapon, keyboardist Lou Pardini.
The centerpiece of the show, “Ballet For Girl From Buchannon,” was as stunning and brilliant as it has ever been. It’s a special treat for fans to hear Lee Loughnane sing “Color My World.”
Other standout moments include “(I’ve Been) Searching For So Long,” which is always a huge hit with the audience. After the song ended, the band did an intimate set which found Sheff at the top of his game his solo performance of “Will You Still Love Me,” his first hit with band.
The band also performed two new songs from the upcoming “Now,” including the title track and “America.” These songs are as good as anything in the group’s catalog. I hope they will continue to play these songs at future shows and possibly even add the new track “Nice Girl,”’ which features Howland on lead vocals. My only complaint is that I wish the band had performed “Feelin’ Stronger Every Day” in its entirety instead of closing the show with the song’s coda.
The encores were what the audience expected – “Free” and the classic “25 Or 6 To 4” – and by this time, everyone in the theater was on their feet. Trombonist Jimmy Panko wouldn’t have it any other way.
I’ve been a fan of Chicago since the first time I heard “Just You And Me” when I was four years old. It is always a special treat to see them perform the songs I love so much in a live setting. I am already looking forward to the next time.
To Pre-order “Chicago Now,” click here0