Members of Chicago wrapped the final performance of their summer tour in images of patriotism and American mettle, speaking with conviction and care about the events of Sept. 11 and its aftermath and performing a number of tunes against the backdrop of the Greek’s oversize, stage-length American flag. This particular Chicago concert provided illumination beyond the patina of nostalgia; this was an encouraging balm, a return to normalcy in the U.S. and, for the fans of this band, pure comfort.
Nearly 30 years ago, as part of the artwork for “Chicago II,” the band included an artist’s interpretation of the American flag. It was gray and cloudy, a metaphor for unsure times and the overwhelming grayness in American politics.
By contrast, James Pankow’s words echoed the sentiments and rhetoric of President Bush and New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani in his recognition of American resolve; indeed, the band commended firefighters and police officers everywhere, making available more than 1,000 tickets for public safety officials for the two Greek shows. Friday night, the house was nearly packed.
And the band, as guided by Robert Lamm from behind his centerstage keyboards, gave a relatively energetic perf that hit so many consistent notes that it’s hard to fault them for getting sluggish in spots or ever so slightly missing a vocal note.
The material that was showcased virtually defined mainstream pop-rock in the 1970s and early ’80s, and it is almost startling how well songs such as “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” and “Beginnings” hold up in their construction and performance. “Saturday in the Park” and “Feeling Stronger” were aural happy pills, spirit boosters that come only in heavy doses.
Wisely, the band moves in and out of configurations, reducing the act to a duo at one point and letting the horn players do a little Latin jazz jam, sing and even try out their percussion skills.
The show, as one would expect, was lively and crowd-friendly; although the pending recording of “Chicago 27” was mentioned, no new tracks, or even indications of what that record may sound like, were proffered.
It’s a prescription for bands and artists with deep histories wondering what to do these days; this is what audiences need and, conversely, the appreciation shown back to the guys on the stage had to be extraordinarily fulfilling.