Review: REO Speedwagon hits, Chicago misses in tour opener

How much do you love Chicago’s second album?

The answer to that question goes a long way in determining whether you would want to see the Chicago-REO Speedwagon co-headlining tour, which kicked off June 13 in Concord.

If you’re a huge fan of that 1970 double-disc affair then you might really appreciate this show, since Chicago is playing the album in its entirety on each stop of this road show.

I’m not a big fan. And, judging by the reaction in Concord, neither were many of others at the concert.

They came hoping to hear the hits. But they didn’t get them – at least not for the first hour of Chicago’s set.

Instead, they got to hear all four sides and 23 tracks/movements of an album that is every bit as complicated, musically speaking, as the story of its title.

The album’s proper name is “Chicago,” which makes it sound like an eponymous debut. But, actually, the group’s eponymous debut came out a year earlier. And that was called – like the band itself at the time – “Chicago Transit Authority.” So most people (including band members) refer to it as “Chicago II,” even though there was no “II” in the title. But the nickname fits, since the group’s next record was called “Chicago III.”

Got it? Don’t make me repeat myself. Please.

Sure, there were a few nice moments during the performance of the album. And you always know that the musicianship is going to be first rate when you’re at a Chicago show.

But, for the most part, people just weren’t into hearing this material, which really hasn’t aged that well overall. Some left early, while others offered up polite, subdued applause and killed time by looking at Facebook on their phones.

Yes, Facebook. It was an older crowd.

The album only contains one really well-known song – the rocking “25 or 6 to 4” – which likewise drew one of the few big reactions from the audience. Even more significant, the song signaled the end of the material from the second album.

Chicago spent the rest of its time on stage rolling through the hits, delivering rich versions of “Beginnings,” “I’m a Man” and “Saturday in the Park” as well as the achingly cheesy ballads “You’re the Inspiration” and “Hard to Say I’m Sorry.”

Fortunately, REO Speedwagon did a much better job with its set. So good, in fact, that it might best serve the tour – and certainly the ticket buyers – to swap spots and let REO have the lengthier set to close the show.

This is one act that clearly understands what most fans are looking for from a classic-rock show. And vocalist Kevin Cronin and his crowd-pleasing crew never hold back on the hits.

The group sounded strong and agile as it ran through one fan favorite after another. “Keep Pushin’” (from 1976’s “R.E.O.”) was an early highlight, quickly followed by the groovy love ballad “Can’t Fight This Feeling” (from “Wheels Are Turnin’”).

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Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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