You can’t blame the guys in Chicago for trying.
This has become a bit of a trend for bands who’s recording days are behind them. Some have seen great success with this formula while others, not so much. Unfortunately, for Chicago, they fall into the latter category.
Don’t get me wrong. The album is a bonafide classic, having propelled the band to the top of the charts with stellar songwriting and fantastic musicianship. At the time, the horn-fueled opus was amazing. But we are no longer in 1970. And many of the fans that grew up and internalized that album are no longer of this earth.
Did I mention that this was a double album? Yes. This went on for a half hour before the first actual hit was played, “Colour My World.” The crowd came to life, having recognized a song. Unfortunately, the party was short-lived when it was followed up with 6 more lesser-known tunes before closing out the first set with “25 or 6 to 4”.
I get the allure of this for the group. Having toured extensively playing the same hits night after night for way too many years, stretching out and playing something new and challenging is a sweet temptation. But for the audience, it doesn’t hold up. At least not in the big amphitheater environment while sharing a bill with another of Rock’s hit-making bands. Perhaps if the band set out on their own, with no opening act, and played in intimate theaters this would translate better.
Happily, this all changed for the second set, as every song they played was a hit. The wait seemed to be worth it as they sang along and cheered each tune. The group delivered knockout versions of classic Chicago tunes “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?,” “Questions 67 & 68,” and “Saturday in the Park,” along with their adult contemporary radio hits “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” and “You’re the Inspiration.”
Overall, the group sounded terrific. And they genuinely looked like they were having fun. The musicianship was stellar and, song choice notwithstanding, it was a night that was enjoyed by all.
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Whereas Chicago had the crowd confused, REO Speedwagon had them eating out of the palm of their hand. Frankly, The boys in REO should really be closing the show as these guys know how to work an audience. They understand that the people were here for the hits and to be swept away to a simpler time singing along to the soundtrack of their youth.
Vocalist Kevin Cronin and the guys in REO looked like they were truly having fun. And this translated directly to the audience. Guitarist Dave Amato and Bass player Bruce Hall worked both sides of the stage, smiling from ear to ear.
They sounded strong as they played hit after hit from the opening chords of “Don’t Let Him Go” to the megahits from their 1981 album “Hi-Fidelity such as “Take It on the Run” and “Keep on Loving You.”
And yet the band still knows how to shake things up a bit, as evidenced by bassist Bruce Hall’s turn on the mic with “Back on the Road Again” and on the night’s closer, a joyous cover of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “Listen to Her Heart.”
REO Speedwagon seems to be constantly touring and if this show is any indication, they will not be slowing down anytime soon.
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Singer-songwriter Michael Tolcher opened the show with a solid performance.