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Chicago's tunes get Red Butte audience dancing

CHICAGO AND JOY AND ERIC, Red Butte Garden Amphitheater, Aug. 4

The beauty of watching Chicago perform is seeing real musicians playing real music.

None of this computer-manipulated pop tunes, thank you very much.

Instead, the band — keyboardist/vocalist Robert Lamm, trumpeter Lee Loughnane, flutist/saxophonist Walt Parazaider, trombonist James Pankow, keyboardist/vocalist/guitarist Bill Champlin, bassist/vocalist Jason Scheff, guitarist/vocalist Keith Howland and drummer Tris Imboden — laid it on the fans that packed the Red Butte Garden Amphitheater. And even when the vocals went a bit flat, the band still played a set filled with million-dollar singles and medleys that had the audience up and dancing to the music and memories.

"Beginnings," "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is" and "Just You and Me" gained new life with Tuesday night's performance.

Medleys that included "Hard Habit to Break" and "You're the Inspiration" gave fans a dose of the band's '80s ballads, and Champlin was able to spotlight his songwriting in a medley that featured "I Don't Want to Live Without Your Love," "Look Away" and "You're Not Alone."

Champlin's medley featured Foo Fighters drummer Drew Hester on drums, giving Imboden a rest.

When Hester wasn't on the drum throne, he was playing percussion with the rest of the band.

The band pulled some surprises out of its past in the celebratory "Alive Again" and "Wake Up Sunshine."

A new tune, with the same vintage horn-highlighted flair, was "Stone of Sisyphus," which is the parenthetic title of the most recent album "Chicago XXXII."

The band even paid tribute to sometimes tour-mate Earth Wind & Fire with a cover of "Can't Let Go."

The much anticipated symphonic "Ballet for the Girl in Buchanan," which is composed of "Make Me Smile," "So Much to Say, So Much to Give," "Anxiety's Moment," "West Virginia Fantasies," "Colour My World," "To Be Free" and "Now More than Ever" was greeted with cheers of approval.

Another crowd favorite was "If You Leave Me Now," which featured Scheff on vocals.

While Howland's vocals on "Old Days" cut out time after time, the band, especially the horn section swooped in to give the crowd something to cheer about.

Chicago also played its centerpiece "I'm a Man," and wrapped the set up with "Hard to Say I'm Sorry/Get Away" and "Saturday in the Park."

And what would a Chicago show be without the finale featuring the rocking "25 or 6 to 4?"

All this was done with minimal theatrics, except for stage and spotlights. There were no videos or flashpots, just well-played tunes.

The night opened with the warm and chiming acoustic set by Park City duo Joy and Eric.

The two charmed the audience with their versions of "Riding Shotgun Down the Avalanche," "Man of Constant Sorrow," and Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" and "Salsbury Hill."

Joy's passionate and soulful voice and Eric's heartfelt and intricate acoustic guitar touched a nerve in the audience which stood, cheered and called in vain for more.

e-mail: scott@desnews.com