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CHICAGO + EARTH WIND & FIRE
Live at the Greek Theatre

Concert review by Mark Wiechman
Technical Specs by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Philip Bailey, Robert Lamm, Jimmy Pankow, Bill Champlin
Director:  Jim Gable
Audio:  DTS HD 5.1
Video:  Color widescreen,  1.78:1
Studio:  Image Entertainment
Features:  Drum duel
Length: 173 minutes
Release date:  July 8, 2008

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 ****

I now know how good music can look on Blu-ray.  Shot on high definition video, this concert looks so vivid and live, you feel like you're peering through a window at an actual happening.  The colors and textures look as real as you can imagine, with an almost three dimensional quality.

Audio ****

I also now know how good music can sound...the HD 5.1 mix is explosive and dynamic, and crystal clear to boot.  You can hear every instrument, every voice, every piece of percussion with alarming clarity.  With two terrific bass players in action, the subwoofer gets plenty of action, while the rear channels make the even seem truly live right in your living room. 

Features *

This is the only thing lacking in the set since the only visual feature is a drum duel.

Summary :

Two of the most successful bands in American history embarked on a hugely successful tour which has been captured on a cutting edge Blu-ray disc that will impress any listener and viewer.

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