The Chicago Symphony Orchestra is considered one of the finest orchestras in the world, so to be in their presence was quite a high point even if they weren't performing some of the compositions they are used to performing. There was no Mahler, Haydn, Handel, Bach or Beethoven on the play list at last night's performance in the famed orchestra hall, but there was a durable rock/pop/jazz fusion act on the bill.
Chicago is now pushing near the edge of fifty years of performance and their first time ever endeavor with accompaniment by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra didn't fail, in spite of a few grievances along the way of the two hour show.
There were many highlights to the night. One of them was the skillfully played I'm A Man which is one of their original recordings, although not an original song by Chicago. The percussion team of Tris Imboden and Walfredo Reyes Jr. took this oldie and goodie to the top level extreme in percussion. Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa would have been pleased with their determination and dedication to the beat and time.
The ballads of note were Hard Habit to Break and Look Away with a down near stunning vocal interpretation by relative newcomer to the band, Lou Pardini. Original member Lee Loughnane's vocal on the classic and beautifully structured Colour My World was glorious in its simplicity. Loughnane should have been used more on vocals, but then again he needed to play the trumpet. His styling of this oft-heard piece of music was lovely.
Beginnings, which remains one of their staples appears better in its original arrangement and tempo, but this reworked version will have to do. I appreciate this song so much I'll take what I can get.
Hard To Say I'm Sorry/Get Away is clearly one of the stellar achievements in a 47 year career and it is played beautifully with the full majesty of the CSO. Make Me Smile survives as their greatest musical accomplishment. This song alone guarantees their status as one of the most significant musical acts of the latter part of the 20th century. Brilliant, and unfortunately too short of a monumental piece of music.
The band closed with 25 or 6 to 4 and the song was elevated by the full orchestra's play of the piece. It was a fabulous way to end the show.
The guys are entertainers and they obviously are superb actors or they thoroughly enjoy their work to this day. Original horns/woodwinds members Walt Parazaider, Lee Loughnane and James Pankow revel with joy and anticipation throughout the show.
The audience was star studded with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, four Aldermen and Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman. The audience decided to boo the Mayor. Politics aside, this type of frat party (and that is not a compliment) behavior is inappropriate, particularly in a venue of this type. Societally, we have become a bunch of tacky types and we seem to enjoy our hillbilly status. One of the founding members (Walt Parazaider) introduced this celeb crowd and what he should have done when the booing started is to reprimand the audience with a gentle poke of "the band and the orchestra would appreciate your respect for the office of the city we all have represented." Seriously, artists shouldn't just stand there and take it. First Amendment rights are precious, but booing at these types of events is uncalled for.
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra was not fully engaged in much of the show, so that was disappointing. Considering they have one of the unequaled horn sections on planet earth it seemed ridiculous not to have them contributing to this music, particularly since Chicago is a brass-centric band. The CSO should have performed at least one piece of music without the band. The audience was cheated out of their magnificence. Orchestrations of My Kind of Town and Chicago would have added a nice touch since it was an all Chicago night. Since four of the members of the band have some classical music in their backgrounds why didn't they engage in a classical piece of music?
Richard Kaufman, conductor of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra served as the conductor for the evening. I can't imagine CSO conductor and music director Riccardo Muti doing this type of event, but then again maybe he was off performing elsewhere. You can catch Muti back at the hall on Thursday, January 30 with Yo-Yo Ma, although Muti did connect with the band for a photo op.
One of my favorite songs was not included in the play list. Dialogue is such a great back and forth vocal with differing worldviews that I would suggest it should always be included in their set list. Superb track that is undervalued, even by the band. Dialogue is one of the most thought provoking songs of the rock era. One must think, but while you are thinking you are still engaged in being entertained. Great tune.
The only down note of the evening was when the normally sophisticated Robert Lamm looked at the audience and said this is the youngest audience the CSO has ever seen. Clearly, he doesn't know who is attending the CSO's performances since their audiences skew younger than this crowd.
This same weekend the band will be inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Unfortunately for them they have to perform with Robin Thicke and pretend that is a good thing. They will have to perform a song that gives glory to the exploitation of women and rape. How many times can one say "bitch" in a song and seemingly get away with it?
Chicago has famously not been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame even though they were eligible for induction over 20 years ago. If you get the chance to see them in concert take that opportunity. Life is brief and fragile and Chicago are one of the great acts of the last 50 years of music.
Current Members of the Band: Robert Lamm, Walt Parazaider, Lee Loughnane, James Pankow, Jason Scheff, Keith Howland, Tris Imboden, Walfredo Reyes, Jr., Lou Pardini
Copyright Chicago and Then Some 2014