CHICAGO, USANA Amphitheater, Monday.
Some aspects of the Chicago concert were predictable.
The band from the Windy City capped the encore with the rockin' "25 or 6 to 4." It also played the '80s ballads "Hard Habit to Break," "Look Away" and "Hard to Say I'm Sorry/Get Away."
But when the band laid into stripped-down versions of "Wishing You Were Here" and "Call on Me," the show took on a whole new dimension.
Chicago — keyboardist/vocalist Robert Lamm, woodwinder Walt Parazaider, trumpeter Lee Loughnane, trombonist Jimmy Pankow, drummer Tris Imboden, bassist/vocalist Jason Scheff, guitarist/vocalist Keith Howland and keyboardist/vocalist Bill Champlin — reached into the hit bag and pulled out songs that haven't seen the light of day for a few years.
"We decided to do this before we forget how to play them," joked Lamm right before "If You Leave Me Now," which was sung by Howland.
The sound at USANA was clean. The horns cut through the mix as well as Howland's guitar and Scheff's bass. The keyboards and drums were also crisp. A couple of times the vocals had to fight to the surface, but audience members who knew the lyrics sang along, even when Scheff's or Champlin's microphones cut out.
Scheff serenaded his fans with a solo piano version of "What Kind of Man Would I Be." And Champlin strapped on the acoustic guitar and strummed out "Look Away." He also played a small electric piano for an intimate version of "I Don't Want to Live Without Your Love" and the aforementioned "Wishing You Were Here," which was sung by Loughnane.
The horn section took the spotlight during the "Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon" suite, which included "Make Me Smile," "So Much to Say, So Much to Give" and the early ballad "Colour My World."
Classic '70s radio hits "Saturday in the Park," "Beginnings," "Questions 67 and 68" and "Just You and Me" gave fans what they wanted. Even when Lamm's fingers misplayed the intro to "Saturday," the fans didn't seem to mind. "Feeling Stronger Every Day" and the laid-back take of "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is" set the stage for Imboden's drum solo during Chicago's version of the Spencer Davis Group's "I'm a Man."
"Free" kicked off the encore, which wrapped up with the obligatory "25 or 6 to 4."
For 36 years, Chicago has been playing music for its fans. Monday's show proved the band still has some years left.