Review: Chicago powerful at Blaisdell

Jan. 12, 2013 | 0 Comments
<em>Chicago played a sold-out show at Blaisdell Arena on Friday, Jan. 11. (Photo by Joah Buley, Special to the Star-Advertiser)</em>

Chicago played a sold-out show at Blaisdell Arena on Friday, Jan. 11. (Photo by Joah Buley, Special to the Star-Advertiser)

REVIEW BY JOHN BERGER / jberger@staradvertiser.com

“It’s gonna be loud,” Robert Lamm, keyboardist and founding member of Chicago said backstage last night, and so it was — although not uncomfortably so — as Chicago opened its 2013 tour schedule with a tremendous tour de force one-nighter at Blaisdell Arena.

The group — one of Hawaii’s all-time favorites of the rock era — played for almost two hours without intermission. The set included all of their biggest, must-play top 40 hits and a welcome amount of their earlier album track material as well.

<em>Chicago's Keith Howland performs. (Photo by Joah Buley, Special to the Star-Advertiser)</em>

Chicago's Keith Howland performs. (Photo by Joah Buley, Special to the Star-Advertiser)

It was Honolulu’s first big concert of 2013, and seems certain to stand as one of the year’s best.

They opened with “Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon,” the dramatic and far-reaching suite from their second album that includes “Make Me Smile” and “Color My World” while also emphasizing the founding members’ roots in progressive jazz fusion and big band rock.

Other selections showed that with Keith Howland on electric guitar, Chicago can rock as hard as almost any band out there.

“I’m A Man” displayed the group’s affinity for extended jamming and percussion arrangements. The song became a showcase number for drummer Tris Imboden and percussionist Walfredo Reyes when they entertained the crowd with a percussion duet that lasted almost fine minutes.

The horn section — founding members Lee Loughnane and James Pankow on trumpet and trombone respectively, plus saxophonist Larry Klimas, subbing for Walt Parazaider — lived up to expectations as well. (Parazaider is recovering from surgery; Klimas has been part of the group’s extended family of musicians for a decade.)

Pankow was a show in his own right. Whether performing as a unit with Loughnane and Klimas, stepping forward as a soloist, or simply dancing with his instrument, Pankow was a charismatic entertainer throughout the evening.

<em>Chicago's James Pankow performs at Blaisdell Arena on Friday, Jan. 11. (Photo by Joah Buley, Special to the Star-Advertiser)</em>

Chicago's James Pankow performs at Blaisdell Arena on Friday, Jan. 11. (Photo by Joah Buley, Special to the Star-Advertiser)

The primary vocalists — Lamm, bassist Jason Scheff and keyboardist Lou Pardini — were in fine form as well. Scheff has been Chicago’s resident tenor since 1985 and by now owns the earlier Chicago hits as well as the ones he originally recorded with them. Lamm is still going strong as one of the group’s original voices after more then 40 years.

Lamm came down to the front of the stage early in the show to make the introductions. He started with Scheff and Howland, then introduced himself, saying, “I’m basically a song writer who got lucky to be in a band — a band with such really talented musicians. it’s always been this way from the beginning.”

Loughnane greeted the crowd a little later, and Pankow took the mike near the end of the show to introduce “Just You ‘n’ Me,” one of his many contributions to Chicago’s list of hits, with the observation that the song had “two distinct audiences, one that got married to it and another one that got conceived to it.”

Many members of both groups were in the audience last night.

“Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?,” with Lamm on lead vocals, and “Dialogue,” featuring Pardini and Scheff, were early highlights in the set list for fans of the group’s early ’70s chart hits. “You’re The Inspiration,” “Beginnings” and Saturday in the Park” were welcomed with enthusiastic applause — “Saturday in the Park” quickly became a spontaneous sing-along.

Chicago closed the main set with a powerful arrangement of “Feelin’ Stronger Every Day,” then returned for encore performances of two more classic early hits — “Free” and “25 or 6 to 4.”

It was a great night.

Hawaii has two more opportunities to catch Chicago at full force in concert; the group plays the Waikoloa Bowl on Hawaii island tonight, and the Maui Arts & Cultural Center on Tuesday, Jan. 15.
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John Berger has been a mainstay in the local entertainment scene for more than 40 years. Contact him via email at jberger@staradvertiser.com.

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