The legendary “rock band with horns” played for almost three hours at MGM National Harbor
Shortly after 8 pm on Friday (Oct 9th), the ten touring members of iconic rock group Chicago took the stage at MGM National Harbor in Forest Heights, MD. What followed was an epic 28-song, three hour evening of genre-bending mastery.
Five decades ago, Chicago saw the potential of wind instruments to turn rock and roll on its head. The catalogue they devised from there has successfully blended jazz, R&B, and rock to create a sound unique to them. The Huey Lewis’ of the world have Chicago to thank for paving the windy way for brass’ acceptance into the rock and roll world.
The group of 10 on this tour comprises original members Lee Loughnane (who appeared recently on The Music Universe Podcast), Robert Lamm, and James Pankow. They are joined by Keith Howland, Lou Pardini, Walfredo Reyes, Jr, Ray Hermann, Brett Simmons, Ray Yslas, and new lead vocalist Neil Parnell — he joined in 2018.
The epic 28-song concert consisted of two sets. Lead vocal responsibilities are traded between original member Lamm, Pardini, and newly-minted Tenor Donell. Pardini earned a standing ovation with his sobering vocals on “Look Away.” Donell’s four-octave range shined on several songs. Lamm often sang from his keyboard perch atop the video-screen risers.
Often, vocalists sang out of the spotlight so that the real stars of the show could glimmer with their respective sheens: the brass. Loughnane, Hermann, and Pankow mugged for the crowd as their harmonious horns provided the trademark backbone to the setlist.
All the fan-favorites are present in this go-round. It’s clear Chicago is making up for lost time, having been off for 18 months like all other legacy acts who primarily make their living from touring. They saved their hardest rock for late in the evening. “I’m a Man” saw most of the front rows mosh to the stage. And of course, “25 or 6 to 4” had everyone on their feet singing along.
Throughout the show, a large LED background displayed myriad versions of Chicago’s logos. For example, during “Free,” the iconic typeface was embedded into a waving American flag. They also used the wall to display images of Chicago landmarks (the city, that is) and memories from the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers’ storied career.
The band is still at the top of their game. And their music has spoken to generations, as is evident by their recently-released set of live music containing multiple shows. Seeing these legends is a must for any true fan of real rock music.
This write-up is part of a new series called “Reviews on the Road.” TMU is traveling to report on the return of live music across the country. We are proud to be documenting this important time in the history of entertainment. Check out our podcast for more detailed discussions on this topic, and stay tuned for more concerts in more states. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with venues you think we should check out.