Chicago and The Doobies Still Smokin It Up
Sure, the bands may be old and the music not quite up to date by the standards of today's young teens and adults, but Chicago and The Doobie Brothers showed that even in the millennium they can still draw in a crowd. Wednesday nights show at Fiddler's Green Amphitheater didn't quite sell out, though the majority of seats were packed and the lawn area was crawling with numerous more fans with blankets and picnic baskets in tote. While one may have guessed that with the more mellow, jazzy sound of Chicago and the jam band, folk persona of The Doobie Brothers that the audience would be a nice split between older couples and young neo-hippies, the gathering of people proved to be anything but. Middle aged adults significantly outnumbered the surprisingly miniscule amount of teens and young adults that could be spotted throughout the crowd with a keen eye. Age difference and a generation gap between the old fans and the new however was of little significance when The Doobies and Chicago both took the stage for an hour each of pure entertainment, ending the show with an unforgettable jam between the two bands whose music continues this day to be played on the radio and remains a part of our record collections.
Starting the night off with a shockingly short twenty minute set was Italian musician Nicola Congui. As more and more people trickled into the venue, filling the seats and slowly turning the lawn area into a picnic area, Congui performed a set of four or five love songs to a chattering, garrulous audience. Performing in black tux-like attire with a low voice and an Italian accent, Congui had the appearance and sound of someone that would seem more fitting for an opera than at a 70's theme concert. After an unusually quick set change and only half an hour after the concert started, The Doobie Brothers took over the stage with an outstanding set of their most accomplished hits that had everybody on their feet and dancing by the time they were done. "Jesus Is Just Alright" and "Black Water" kicked off their set early on, only to be followed by several more of their greatest hits including "Long Train Runnin'" and "South City Midnight Lady," as well as a long blues piece about half way through their performance that really allowed the versatility and virtuosity of the band to shine through. While their harmonics were not as pure and strong as they perhaps were in their younger years, and the sound of their music not quite as full sounding as the recorded versions, The Doobies played an energetic set that got the people out of their seats and singing along to every word at what otherwise might have been considered to some as a "sit down" concert.
Following The Doobies as second headliner of the tour with an hour set of classic, best of songs in a show that proved not to be quite as strong as the far to seemingly short performance by The Doobie Brothers was Chicago. Perhaps it was the cold wind that took over as the night passed or the more mellow music of Chicago that during their time on stage did for the most part turn the show into a "sit down" one. With a set comprised of such songs as "Make Me Smile," "Beginning," and "Just You N Me," the band got the audience singing along and swaying in their seats, but for the most part the crowd simply enjoyed the concert without too much outward excitement or enthusiasm. As was the case with The Doobie Brothers, the years passed seemed to have taken a tull on the guys of Chicago, their vocals and overall sound not quite what it used to be, though still an impressive performance of their most popular recorded songs. By far, what made Chicago's show shine and brought took it to a whole new level was an incredible ten minute drum solo that grasped every member of the audience and held their attention at the stage. With a light show following the music and the drum set upstage center on a raise, Chicago's drum solo displayed an everlasting talent that truly bewildered the audience with its outright impressiveness and was received with a wild applause of satisfaction. After this climatic point of their performance, the audience slowly got more into the show as individuals around the arena started to pop up and Chicago began to play more of the songs the audience wanted to hear. By the time Chicago had come around to their last song of an hour set that felt anything but, again the whole theatre was up chanting and grooving along together.
While both bands played great sets that seemed to go by so much faster than the hour they each played on stage, the half hour encore jam session between the two classic rock groups was the highlight of the show that immediately brought the full crowd to their feet where they would remain until the lights came up. With both Chicago and The Doobies having a larger number of group members as compared to today's standard 4-piece band, the stage quickly filled up as the four guitarists, three drummers, two keyboardists, and seemingly one bassist filed out to play all their remaining best and biggest songs together. Moments of guitar and saxophone duels between opposing band members accented the show with yet another burst of talent and made for a performance that showed that the musicians were truly enjoying themselves just as much the freely dancing, singing audience. An amazing and extremely enjoyable performance of "Listen to the Music" followed by a just as outstanding and solid play of "25 or 6 to 4" ended the night on a strong note that left the audience sighing at the concerts ending and yearning for more as the house lights un-wishfully came up.