After 36 studio albums and more than 100 million records sold, classic rock/jazz/pop band Chicago is like a fine bottle of Glenfiddich 1937 Scotch whiskey – things just get better and better with age. The Illinois hitmakers pulled into Hamilton last weekend (June 15) for a two-hour plus extravaganza of hits, deep album cuts and a hearty serving of music from their 1970 Chicago II album.

Armed with an amazing array of musicians and vocalists, founding members Robert Lamm (keyboards, guitar, lead vocals), Lee Loughnane (trumpet, flugelhorn) and James Pankow (trombone) seemed to be having the time of their lives on that stage. The band has never sounded better, they had a youthful energy rarely seen in classic bands, and they played all the hits people wanted to hear – for two-and-a-half hours, no less!

Canadians should be proud, as Toronto vocalist Neil Donell dove into classic tenor vocal pieces, including all the classic 1970s and 80s Peter Cetera hits like If You Leave Me Now, Hard to Say I’m Sorry Hard Habit to Break and You’re the Inspiration. It’s rare for a replacement singer to surpass the original, but Donell knocked it out of the park. He was able to duplicate all the vocal nuances of Cetera and add just enough of his own flavour to keep it original – it actually doesn’t get much better than this.

The band was recently at Caesars Windsor and performed a similar set, but for fans of the 80s hits, they pulled out Look Away from Chicago 19 during a mini-acoustic set for Hamilton. Keyboardist Lou Pardini gave a passional vocal performance centre stage.

It was great seeing real musicians on stage playing real music and having a great time doing it. Near the end of the show, fans were treated to a drum/percussion piece featuring the talented Walfredo Reyes Jr. and Ramon “Ray” Yslas. They created one of the most memorable parts of the show, trading places between drums and percussion, all with a frenzy and fury one would expect at La Zorra y el Cuervo in Havana.

Twenty-four songs in and fans were exhausted, the band was sweating and there was an excitement in the air that felt like a glorious Saturday in the park.

Chicago fans knew what to expect from this modern version of the 53-year-old band, but casual music lovers and curious onlookers were shocked and blown away by a band that’s just as tasty as that 1937 bottle of Glenfiddich.

Photos by Dan Savoie

FirstOntario Centre
Hamilton, ON
June 15, 2019

  • Introduction
  • Questions 67 & 68
  • Dialogue (Part I & II)
  • Wake Up Sunshine
  • Call on Me
  •  (I’ve Been) Searchin’ So Long
  • Mongonucleosis
  • If You Leave Me Now
  • Look Away
  • Make Me Smile
  • Colour My World
  • Alive Again
  • Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?
  • Old Days
  • Hard Habit to Break
  • You’re the Inspiration
  • Beginnings
  • I’m a Man
  • Just You ‘n’ Me
  • Hard to Say I’m Sorry / Get Away
  • Saturday in the Park
  • Feelin’ Stronger Every Day
  • Free
  • 25 or 6 to 4

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