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CHICAGO + EARTH WIND & FIRE
Live at the Greek Theatre

Review by Mark Wiechman

Stars:  Philip Bailey, Robert Lamm, Jimmy Pankow, Bill Champlin
Director:  Jim Gable
Audio:  Dolby 2.0, 5.1, DTS 5.1
Video:  Color widescreen,  1.78:1
Studio:  Image Entertainment
Features:  See review
Length: Two discs,173 minutes
Release date:  June 28, 2005

When I’m with you, it doesn’t matter where we are

Or what we’re doing, I’m with you that’s all that matters.

Time passes much too quickly when we’re together laughing

I wish I could sing it to you, I wish that I could sing it to you.

Only the beginning of what I want to feel forever…

Film ***1/2

The influence of the Beatles on future rock music is beyond measure, and it cannot always be pinned down to one or two songs.    Clearly the most influential tracks were not always the chart-toppers.  One such track was the underrated Got to Get You Into My Life.  Paul McCartney’s synthesis of Motown and Mersey Beat was a seminal inspiration for two of rock’s most successful acts, Chicago and Earth, Wind, and Fire.  Chicago basically continued the evolution of rock with horns and soul influence but still saw themselves as sons of the Beatles.  EW&F, on the other hand, took a funkier approach and even had a hit with their remake of the Beatles tune.   EW&F performs the great Beatles tune in their inimitable funk-pop style in this concert, vastly improving on the original.  While most vocals in the concert lack some of the shine of the original recordings, they are still excellent and I hope I can sing half that well when I am in my 60’s!

Something happened along the way

what used to be happy is sad

Something happened along the way

Yesterday was all we had



Both bands have outstanding horn sections which serve as far more than just embellishment but become another voice in the mix.  Both bands are also well-known for innovative songwriting and in their heyday featured soaring vocals from two of the best tenors of pop, Philip Bailey and the departed Peter Cetera.   Both bands have also lost founding members (Chicago’s Terry Kath and the retired Maurice White) but continue to perform at more or less the same level.

A spirit of collaboration flows throughout the show, such as Philip Bailey seamlessly joining Robert Lamm on the opening number Beginnings and the bassists for each group both play the break on that tune.  Bailey also takes over the lead vocal on If You Leave Me Now, and sings it better than anyone except maybe Peter Cetera himself.  Toward the end of the EW&F set, Bill Champlin sings lead on After the Love is Gone, which he co-wrote.  His vocal is a bit rough in the lower range but he has more than enough soul to be the only white performer in a band very proud of its African ancestry.  Vocals, horns, and even drum solos are exchanged while the overall sound remains tight.

Having both acts on stage at once lets you see how similar they are.  EW&F is more than just disco and funk; their lyrics and riffs are very inventive and well above the majority of 70’s dance bands.  Chicago is also funkier than they get credit for.  Dialogue easily could have been an EW&F tune and I am sure Chicago would have loved to have recorded September.  Not coincidentally, David Foster produced some of the biggest hits for each band, as he has always loved bands with horns.   Both bands were also born in the windy city.  But why is EW&F in the Hall of Fame, but not Chicago? 

Songlist and order:  DISC ONE Opening (both bands): Beginnings; In the Stone; Dialogue (Parts 1 and 2).  EW&F set:  Magic Mind; Boogie Wonderland; System of Survival; Jupiter; Getaway; Serpentine Fire; Kalimba Story; Got to Get You into My Life; The Way You Move; After the Love Has Gone; That’s the Way of the World; Reason; Fantasy; Let’s Groove; Mighty Mighty.  DISC TWO Chicago:  Ballet for a Girl in Buchanan (listed as “Make Me Smile Medley”); If You Leave Me Now; Call On Me; Alive Again; Hard Habit to Break; Mongonucleosis; Old Days; Just You ‘N Me; Saturday in the Park; Feelin’ Stronger Every Day; I’m a Man; Hard to Say I’m Sorry.  Finale (both bands) September; Free; Sing a Song; Does Anybody Really Know What Time it is?; Shining Star.

Video ****

Shot in High Definition, it is not only a crystal clear picture but tasteful panning and chancing of shots to make it interesting without the frenetic changing of angles that plagues many concerts.  This was a challenge with so many performers on a large stage.  Visually, this is the best concert of 2005.

Audio ****

The stereo mix is perfect and the DTS is also loud and proud, although the only real difference between the DTS and Dolby 5.1 is that the middle bass frequencies are smoother.  Their volumes are about the same.  Again, this was a challenge to mix either band since they are both large, let alone all of them playing together.  This mix rivals the outstanding Eagles Live in Melbourne concert. 

Features *

This is the only thing lacking in the set since the only visual feature is a drum duel.  Ho, hum.  But there is a nice colorful 4 page booklet which lists all personnel and provides complete songwriting credits.

Summary :

Two of the most successful bands in American history embarked on a hugely successful tour which has been captured on a cutting edge double DVD that will impress any listener and viewer.   Along with The Eagles Live In Melbourne, 2005 is proving to be a great year so far for concert releases and the bar continues to be raised for excellent digital entertainment.

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