Sunday, May 17, 2009

Non-Concert Review: Chicago's "Finest"

Chicago’s Finest (Impostors)

I was almost duped again. Obviously riding on the current of the musical nostalgia circuit, I caught myself trying to acquire tickets (whether bought, cajoled from or even begged for) for a “Chicago” concert.

You know… Chicago… rock band with a horn section and all.... Jimmy Pankow, Jason Scheff, Bobby Lamm, Bill Champlin and the guys… They made those radio staples “If You Leave Me Now,” “You’re the Inspiration,” and other things I’m sure you’ve heard but may not have known it was them…

"...Now I’m pretty sure that they’re excellent musicians... with Marty Grebb along with one of the former members of Tower of Power, Tim Scott... But no Pankow, no Champlin, no Lamm, no Scheff…"

And then one day, I heard the words “former members” in a radio ad… then I said, WAITAMINIT… not again…

A quick online check reveals that only three guys on the five-man lineup ever played with Chicago. With guitarist Chris Pinnick being the only officially listed member (for all of five years), while multi-instrumentalist Marty Grebb and Kenny Cetera (yes, Pete’s brother) only performed tour duties without ever being on any album.

Now I’m pretty sure that they’re excellent musicians, and with Marty Grebb along with former member of Tower of Power, Tim Scott, they may have a horn section with a technical level that can give Jimmy, Lee Loughnane and Walt Parazaider a run for their money.

And yeah, they have a Cetera on vocals. Fine.

But no Pankow, no Champlin, no Lamm, no Scheff… none of THOSE guys.

Al McKay and his Earth Wind & Fire “Experience” already got me once, and while they did put up a good show, there’s something profoundly missing from not catching the “real” band. Considering that they’re all being sold as a retro act.

I mean, in the case of “Chicago’s Finest,” how on earth can you position it as a retro act when they’re not even a solid band to begin with? At least Al McKay’s band is a “together” kind of band, not a hodge podge obviously put together to capitalize on a semi-correct marquee billing that was assured of putting a bunch of white guys on stage.

And if all I was after was a tribute band of any sort, I don’t think I’d need to wait for an assemblage of Americans who’ve played together only for all of their rehearsal schedules. I mean, we are in the Philippines, man… c’mon! We got tribute bands galore who can sometimes sound even better than the real thing. Does some guy named Arnel Pineda sound familiar?

The whole thing reeks of opportunism. But an ingenious opportunism, I must admit. And I’m betting there are a few hundred more Arnel Pinedas out there just waiting to be heard by the right people…

I almost considered catching Bobby Kimball who came in recently in a concert dubbed “TOTO Hits.” At least he wasn’t pretending to be a retro act. Just some former frontman who promises to sing the hits he helped make famous. But I’m more of a Lukather, Paich and Porcaro fan… Kimball’s cool, but without the other guys… I dunno…

Too bad I didn’t catch Cook and Archuleta… but I got my share of open-air concerts… not very pleased… lousy audio, even worse crowd control, and the crowd is sure to be predominantly young… most likely rowdy teens and twenty-somethings… I’m getting old…

‘catch you later…


Anonymous said...

Jasper, you need your head examined.
Putting these guys down for not being "Chicago" is like putting Beatlemania down for not being the Beatles for crying out loud!
You know, it's funny, it's OK if 4 no name guys (by the way, not 5 like you stated) want to get together to form a tribute band, no one gives a damn. But because there are 3 guys here who have actually worked WITH the group who's songs they're playing, for some reason it's WRONG. Huh? I don't understand that justification.
And by the way, Kenny DID record - on their 17th - and their biggest grossing, best selling album TO DATE. Hmm. Not shabby there.
And you are seriously mistaken regarding your comments... "Jimmy Pankow, Jason Scheff, Bobby Lamm" (he doesn't go by Bobby anymore, by the way)"Bill Champlin..." "They made those radio staples "If You Leave Me Now," "You're The Inspiration," and other things..."
Wow, you really DON'T know what you're talking about here. Jason wasn't around for EITHER of those two hits... whereas Kenny actually sang on "You're The Inspiration" (check the liner notes, dearie). And neither Jason NOR Bill Champlin was anywhere NEAR the band when they recorded "If You Leave Me Now", "Make Me Smile", "25 or 6 to 4", "Color My World", "Just You 'N Me", "Free", "Does Anybody Know What Time It Is"... shall I go on? Get your facts straight and don't be so quick to dismiss. This WAS a delightful show. Peter's brother was engaging and entertaining to watch and sounds great singing his brother's tunes. Actually, I wonder why Chicago didn't hire him when Peter left?
Mr. Pinnich plays the songs as well as ANY of the guitarists that have come after Terry Kath, including their current guitar player. And don't LET me get started on him - Keith Howland - when he tries to sing Peter's tunes. AHHHH! That's just stupid!
And from what I've heard on Youtube, I think Mr. Grebb better emulates the sound of Terry Kath's vocals compared to Bill Champlin's "too-many notes" parodies.
I thought the show was great, and I'm sure I paid half of what the current "official" trumped up, sit-in line up Chicago-oke band would have charged. I'd go see them again. Hope they come back.

Jasper Greek Lao Golangco said...

Greetings, anonymous visitor...
Truth be told, i do know my facts. When i mentioned the band members, followed by a smattering of Chicago's hits, i meant the band, not the actual band members. i am very well aware of Jason's and Bill's tenure with the band, and that Jason per se was not in the band yet when those tunes I mentioned came out.
So Kenny did record. I stand corrected.
But hey, if you read the actual context of what I wrote, I had nothing but respect for the members of the band individually. It was the premise of them being positioned as a retro act that I found disturbing.
I am fully aware of the individual musical pedigrees of the band that was assembled, but I'm a sentimental kind of guy. I'm sure they made a great show, but for me, the band that was "the" band should be the only ones who have a right to the name.
And as for the current members of Chicago... all I've seen are recordings (particularly a copy of their TRL performance, and they are still good. And the energy of a band with as much history as Chicago is something that cannot be replaced.
As for emulating Terry Kath... well... Bill Champlin doesn't need to emulate Kath. He can sing any way he wants to. Do remember that Bill sang lead on a number one single ("Look Away").
But chill, dude... I can see that we are both fans of the band. But probably of different eras.
Cheers and thanks for dropping by.

ahclem said...

As an old fart whose road towards current partial deafness began at the tender age of 17 (1971) when a friend won a pair of 2nd row seats to Chicago (DIRECTLY in front of the left bank of speakers) in a radio station call in contest, I'm curious as to whether Jasper's response will show sympathy, envy, OR if a combination of the 2 what the ratio might be?

Jasper Greek Lao Golangco said...

hey, scott... wow... yeah... i am envious... 1971 woul mean terry kath was still playing (and alive)... but something along the lines of the late 70's would've made me even more envious... heh heh...
still... lucky you, bro...