A bronze man still can tell stories his own way

If you want to know about a classic rock band, ask a guy who has seen them perform more than 20 times.

Our friend Mike discovered Chicago 40 years ago. Son of a band leader himself, Mike identified with the classically trained musicians.

“They’re educated musicians,” he said. “They mostly met in college in Chicago and they’ve been playing together ever since.”

It’s one thing to develop a passion for a certain type of music, and share that passion with an equally talented, equally driven group. It’s quite another to maintain that shared passion and drive for nearly half a century.

We were lucky enough to join Mike and his wife Stephanie to see Chicago perform last Thursday night at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center.

The band still includes founding members Walter Parazaider, James Pankow, Lee Loughnane and Robert Lamm. Joined by long-time band members Jason Scheff, Tris Imboden, Keith Howland, Lou Pardini and Walfredo Reyes Jr., Chicago still rocks the house.

If they move a little more stiffly across the stage, it doesn’t affect the quality of the concerts they perform. My clapping muscles ached following the sold-out show and we jumped (or creakily stretched) to our feet for standing ovations throughout the concert and two encore songs.

The band doesn’t employ an opening act, or dancers, or Hollywood stylists to maintain its cross-generational appeal. It relies on the same tools with which the founding members first built their distinctive sound, a couple of smooth horns, sweet vocals, and a team of talented instrumentalists.

In a display of enviable stamina for a bunch of guys approaching their eighth decade, Chicago will be touring all summer, both here and abroad, ahead of a new album, Now Chicago XXXVI. If you have a chance to see them live (they promised they’d be back in Appleton soon), don’t hesitate. It’s quite a treat to spend an evening with a group of men who’ve devoted their entire and extensive lives to the production of high-quality music.

These pictures don't really do the concert experience justice as I was busy dancing as well.
These pictures don’t really do the concert experience justice as I was busy dancing as well.
Four original band members still rock the stage.
People dancing, really smiling. A man playing guitar and singing for us all.
Here’s Vince and a couple of Mikes during intermission. The Mike in the middle has been a Chicago groupie since 1974 and he’s seen them perform more than 20 times.
A sold out crowd and a sincere and lingering standing ovation.
Here’s the band high-fiving the front row. I’m pretty sure Tris Imboden is pointing right at me and mouthing the words “thank you for coming, Laura” but I could be wrong.

Back in Junior High, I learned to play the flute thanks to Walter Parazaider and Colour My World. Imagine my thrill, then, to hear him play it live 37 years later. Please ignore the shaky quality of the video…I may have been welling up.

6 thoughts on “A bronze man still can tell stories his own way

  1. I was in my early twenties when Chicago first hit it big. Now I have their tunes floating in my head, so thank you for reminding me.

  2. I too played the flute; at 64 I still play & was always inspired by my flute hero Walter Parazaider!

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