Thursday, March 10, 2011

Remember The Feeling - April 26, 1985

Chicago chill out in the early 80s

Recently I celebrated my 17th wedding anniversary with my wife so to celebrate I thought I would take a look back at one of my favorite albums - Chicago 17 (because, you know, the number 17 is involved and my wife suggested a while back I should post about past concerts). Except I've looked at Chicago 17 six ways til Sunday on this blog so instead I'm going to fondly recall the concert I saw at the Oakland Coliseum on April 26, 1985.

This was the third concert of Chicago's I'd been to and the second time I was catching them supporting 17. Chicago was the 3rd concert I'd been to (for Chicago 16) and I saw them again in 1984 at the Berkeley Greek Theatre. The Greek Theatre show was a blast, had pretty close up seats near the center aisle so we could see Peter Cetera emote with all his jut jawed expressiveness. The band played all decked out in these lily white jump suits and were riding the momentum of "Hard Habit To Break" climbing the charts.

Fast forward to April '85, both "Hard Habit To Break" and "You're The Inspiration" had hit the Top 10 and "Along Comes A Woman" was bounding it's way to the Top 40. Chicago was now one of my favorite bands thanks to the Fosters Freeze lush arrangements and hooky soft rock winsomeness they had mastered. I was so psyched I used Print Shop to make my own flyer for the upcoming concert to put in my new binder (back when the clear plastic sleeve on the front of the binder was a new thing) and advertise my dorkitude.

The Oakland Coliseum was the largest venue I would ever see Chicago in. This was before video screens were like a requirement for concerts so it was a noticeable difference between my close floor seating in Berkeley versus the distant vantage point in the larger arena. But it was a small price to pay to see Chicago back on top. Got a kick out of some guy in the concession line bemoaning to his pal that these young people didn't know the old stuff. My parents had Chicago Live At Carnegie Hall on cassette buddy! Yeah, "Fancy Colours" I know that one. Ha! 25 years later I've formulated a comeback for something that wasn't even said to me.

Anyway the set list was:

We Can Stop The Hurtin / Ballet For A Girl In Bucannon (Make Me Smile and Colour My World) / Along Comes A Woman / Saturday In The Park / Love Me Tomorrow / Please Hold On / Hard Habit To Break / Livin In The Limelight / Beginnings / Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is? / You're The Inspiration / Prima Donna / Stay The Night / Hard To Say I'm Sorry - Get Away

Encore: Gimmie Some Lovin / Got To Get You Into My Life / Get Away (reprise)

(It turns out there is a bootleg of this concert which is where I got the set list from. It's funny because I can't recall going to a Chicago concert that didn't have "25 or 6 to 4" but it wasn't listed so I guess it wasn't played. Links above are to online recordings from the actual concert I was at!)

What's not listed is I wanna say I remember part of "Bad Advice" being played at the intro before starting off with the Robert Lamm led "We Can Stop The Hurtin". Thanks to the magic of You Tube there is some of this bootleg is online sounds like there's some "Only You" in the intro music too. "Hurtin" was probably as close as 80s Chicago got to 70s Chicago with Lamm decrying the plight of the homeless and some snazzy horn section action going on.

The "Make Me Smile" and "Colour My World" part was great because I'd never heard it as a single piece before (Ballet For A Girl From Buchannon) and being a prog rock fan enjoyed the extended sections. Last year I read an interview with Bill Champlin that he didn't enjoy singing "Colour My World" which was a surprise 'cause I felt he did the song justice every time I heard him sing it.

"Along Comes A Woman" allows his Ceteraness to make an early appearance and push the new single (which sounded so much better as a remixed 45 than the album original with that damn rubbery bass line). Listening to the live sound now I was inclined to slam how unharmonious the background vocals were then I remember that a lot of modern technology is used to blend voices with bands these days. That's how these bands can have two guys singing sound like six at the same time. Can't always sound like the record in real life folks.

"Saturday In The Park" or as my wife and I like to call it "Sabado en el Parque" with Lamm on lead was next. Did you know that "Saturday In The Park" comes from the record Chicago V, the band's first single disc release? Worthless trivia you say? YOU'RE WELCOME.

Cetera strikes back with his cool ballad ways on "Love Me Tomorrow" from Chicago 16. If I remember right, they had Chris Pinnick on guitar. Big burly dude that could play with a very crisp sound, probably my favorite of those who succedded the late Terry Kath (though I don't believe Pinnick was ever a full time member).

Bill Champlin got his R&B groove on next with "Please Hold On". I often wondered why Champlin's Bay Area connection (Sons Of Champlin) wasn't played up during Chicago shows over here. Don't know why.

Now for what was my favorite song of all time in back then, the super melodramatic ballad "Hard Habit To Break". Cetera. Champlin. Pure awesome.

Nothing says clout in a band like forcing your solo stuff on them and Cetera does just that with "Livin In The Limelight" from his first solo LP. I like "Livin" but face facts it wasn't that such big a hit that it needed to be included over, say, "Old Days" or "Wishin You Were Here". As soon as Cetera started talking second solo album following this tour, Chicago banished him to Solitude/Solitaire land never to return :(

Robert Lamm represents for old school Chicago with "Beginnings" and "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?" back to back. Looks like Lamm had a piano solo in here, it used to be pretty interesting he'd have a baby grand type piano that he would lift the lid to and climb part ways inside to pluck the strings directly. The bootleg says drum solo too which is Danny Seraphine. Not on this show, but a few years later I saw the Chicago 19 tour and thought the drum solo was slow and off in terms of time. I guess the band thought it was getting bad too because Seraphine was replaced by next album. I read somewhere that Seraphine took the firing pretty hard, eventually forming his own band called CTA. Having listened to recent clips of CTA playing classic Chicago songs where he sounds dead on and fantastic, maybe he was just having an off show when I saw him last?

From this point on it essentially becomes the Peter Cetera show. The power ballad "You're The Inspiration" was a real flick-your-bic in the air moment. The tempo races up again and surprised me with "Prima Donna" from the Two Of A Kind soundtrack. The speedy rocker blew my mind back in the day and I was pumped to hear it live.

"Stay The Night" was next, loved loved loved that car chase music video. Can't see the video live though, Cetera entertained by hopping to the beat about the stage and allowing his bro Kenny Cetera to rock the background vocal mic.

To wrap up the primary part of the set, the power ballad "Hard To Say I'm Sorry" poured out nicely before ramping up to the big finish with the hard charging "Get Away".

Following a nice break the band returned with a cover of Spencer Davis Group's "Gimmie Some Lovin". It was high NRG greatness and I remember at one point Cetera literally running around the whole stage, around the back and everything. Another cover "Got To Get You Into My Life" arrived next before closing out with another "Get Away".

As I mentioned before, after this tour Cetera was booted ending an era for the band. Cetera would have solo hits, Chicago would have other hits, but it was never ever the same. I'm lucky to have gotten to see King Pete perform with his Chicago bros one last time, because that was 25 years ago and his replacement Jason Scheff has now been in the band longer than he was meaning that bridge was really burned back then. But for one shining moment, Cetera and the guys stood as one in shiny white suits left over from Buck Rogers and wayyy too much mousse in their hair.

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