Celebrating 55 Years of Music
Mohegan Sun Casino Arena
May 7, 2022
Photos & Review by Dan Wenc
UNCASVILLE, Conn. – The legendary rock band Chicago was out on the road in celebration of fifty-five years of music and touring. Five decades, thirty-seven album, with well over one hundred million albums sold; plus their 2016 induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Chicago and its current live show is a prime example of what a successful rock band is all about. The success and longevity of Chicago have out lived what most bands hope to achieve. Chicago IS one of those legendary rock bands of all time, greatest of the greats. Seeing them play live confirmed why they should be labeled as such. The music and the musicians who wrote the songs and are still out performing some five decades later. This is not a tired band, the musical stamina of Chicago in their two hour set just blew me away. It was high energy performance, with two, hour long sets. A show well worth the price of admission.
The show began just after 7:30 PM, starting the night was the first song from their 1969 inaugural album, Chicago Transit Authority, “Introduction,” followed with “Dialogue (Part I & II)” and “Question 67 & 68.”
First off, this was one of the best all around live musical performances that I’ve seen in a while. The music, the sound, the stage energy between the musicians on stage, they shared smiles, with the visual display of having a good time with each other on stage all throughout the night. Chicago is a must see for any music fan, if you have never seen them live before, put them on your list for 2022. Chicago is not slowing down, in fact, they will be out on the road in 2022 with Brian Wilson.
The sound was crisp and clear. Vocals were spot on to the original recordings and the unmistakeable sounds of the horn section carried right through the arena ever so pleasantly. Neil Donell, who has been on vocals and guitar with Chicago since 2018, has an amazing voice, he hits every note perfectly in line with the signature vocal stylings of the signature Chicago sound. The stage show was an assortment of ten musicians scattered about the stage, they moved all around in step to the music and kept the crowd going all night long. The brass section kept centerstage most of the night. Watching the horn section perform and move around the stage was just one of the the highlights of the night. Usually the brass is somewhere off to the side and back of stage. Not Chicago, this band’s music put the horn section front and center, the key to their timeless, unique sound. For a first timer seeing Chicago live, it was awesome to watch!
The night moved along from one Chicago classic to the next, “Wake Up Sunshine,” “Call on Me,” “I’ve Been Searchin’ So Long,” and “Mongonucleosis.”
Founding member and trombonist, James Pankow, took a moment to talk with the audience and introduced a sneak peak song from the latest upcoming studio album, Chicago XXXVIII, with the song, “If This is Goodbye.”
Then it was back to 1976 with “If You Leave Me Now” from the Chicago X album. Next up, the musical compilation known as the Ballet for a Girl from Buchannon, from the Chicago II album, the melodies of, “Make Me Smile,” “So Much to Say, So Much to Give,” “Anxiety’s Moment,” “West Virginia Fantasies,” “Colour My World,” “To Be Free,” and “Now More Than Ever.”
The night was moving along fast, each Chicago classic brought the musical momentum to another level each time. It was almost time for the conclusion of the first half of the night, Chicago had the arena on their feet with swells of applause and cheers just before intermission.
After a quick twenty minute intermission Chicago returned to the stage starting off with “Alive Again,” followed with “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” The arena was back alive again to a song why Chicago is such a unique band that cannot be replicated for their sound, an array of harmonious musical arrangement consisting of of vocals, strings, keys, percussion and brass. Their sound and style is unique. The instrumental arrangements of most of their songs are far complex than most rock artists. Seeing it happen on stage is really quite an experience. Next up was “Old Days” which kept the musical energy flowing, bringing people to the front of the stage dancing and carrying on in enjoyment of the evening.
Pankow took a moment in between songs to talk to the audience, he said that every time they play, it it is like the first time. He spoke of how their music would become the soundtrack of so many people lives, with people reliving the moment they first heard the music that night. Pankow said that for band to witness it was amazing and a songwriters reward.
Pankow led into the next couple songs by saying they were going back to 80s era, going into “Hard Habit to Break.” The 80s certainly went in a different direction than what they were doing in the 70s. From one decade to the next, Chicago continued to persevere through the changing musical landscapes between the two decades of the 70s and 80s. Chicago proved to be capable of musical evolution in their artistry and success. These were the songs that played as the backing tracks to the lives of many. “You’re the Inspiration” just might have received he largest wave of applause of the night… to this point. Things were still getting better with each song.
It was time for the band introductions, led by founding member, vocalist and keyboardist Robert Lamm, one by one, he introduced the band one by one, Tony Obrohta on guitar, Eric Baines on bass, Rob Arthur on keyboards, Ramon “Ray” Yslas on percussion, Walfredo Reyes Jr. on drums, Ray Herrmann on Sax, Flute Clarinet, Neil Donell on vocals and guitar, and the original founding members, Lee Loughnane on trumpet, James Pankow on Trombone and Robert Lamm, who concluded with, “We are Chicago!”
Then it was right into another Chicago classic, “Beginnings,” a musical carnival of activity on stage, there is so much happening, musically on the Chicago stage. The sound they produce is a complex one, operating as a finely tuned machine, all falling in sync to form their melodic groove. This was one of the many highlights of not only hearing live, but watching these classic songs being performed by the people who wrote them some fifty-something years ago was something else.
Next was the Spencer Davis Group cover of “I’m a Man,” another complex song of musical joy, all cylinders firing. For this one, the horn section would trade the brass for some percussive instruments. The groove was on. The pinnacle of the song was the dual drum and percussion solo, with Yslas and Reyes Jr. even trading up spots for a moment. Concluding the drum solo was back into “I’m a Man.”
This moment of the night where I said to myself that this was one of the best well rounded concerts that I have been to in a while. Not just the catalog of legendary songs that were performed, but in the way it was performed. Some of the members are touring members or have joined up along the way and they were amazing. But the guys who have been at this for fifty-five years, the energy and passion they displayed for the music and the joy that they presented that night in the way they showed off their craft, was equally entertaining to watch as it was listening to the music. A well rounded performance that will leave you musically satisfied.
Rounding out the evening was “Just You ‘n’ Me”, “Hard to Say I’m Sorry / Get Away”, and of course “Saturday In The Park.”
“Feeling Stronger” had the crowd roaring for more, but it was that time of the night were the band departed the stage and the lights went down. For the encore performance Chicago took the stage for two final songs, “Free” and “25 or 6 to 4.”
This was such a great show. Don’t miss it! Out of all the concerts I have been to though the years, this night was certainly a concert highlight. I am glad to say that I saw Chicago live.
CHICAGO photo gallery
For more Chicago music news and tour dates, visit: https://chicagotheband.com
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