Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Ides Of March Christmas Show

Photo Courtesy Paul Braun, Cygnus Images 

Forget the aspect of the whole "Hometown Hero" thing ... these guys rocked the house as good as ANY band we've seen in the past thirty years!  ("Last Band Standing" indeed!) 

Although they've been performing it now for the past ten years, we had never seen The Ides Of March Christmas Show before ... and it was a real joy (to the world) to finally be able to catch it. 

WGN's Steve and Johnnie acted as MC's throughout the evening.  (In fact, Steve King even joined the band on stage to play guitar for the "Vehicle" finale!) 

Jim Peterik protege Cathy Richardson opened the show with what she kept referring to as her short, 30-minute set (which, in fact, went on for at least TWICE that long), joined on stage by her partner in musical crime, Anne Harris, an exceptional (and very "bendy"!) violin player who just might give the Devil his due should the two ever meet up in Georgia.  (Ironically The Charlie Daniels Band will be performing at The Arcada early next year on April 10th)! 


Above Two Photos Courtesy Paul Braun, Cygnus Images

In addition to being the new female voice fronting Jefferson Starship (who just happen to be coming to The Arcada on March 29th!), where she handles many of the lead vocals previously presented by Grace Slick, Mickey Thomas and Marty Balin, Richardson also played the Off-Broadway lead in the very successful and popular Janis Joplin tribute, "Love, Janis". (In fact, she's also been known to front Big Brother and the Holding Company live in concert a time or two!)  Her vocals are quite powerful and Harris presented the perfect foil with her exceptional fills on both violin and background vocals. 

Photo Courtesy Paul Braun, Cygnus Images

Also on hand for this very special holiday event was Marzette Griffith, another singer Peterik has been working with for the past several decades.  Griffith is the newest member of The Chi-Lites, one of the seminal soul bands from Chicago ... and he has also recently been nominated in the Black Excellence awards at the Dusable Museum.  He proved exactly why with exceptional vocals in his very brief moment in the spotlight.  (We would have LOVED to have seen more of Marzette Saturday Night!) 

Photo Courtesy Paul Braun, Cygnus Images

The Ides put together a GREAT holiday show with excellent harmonies and arrangements ... many of these songs are original Peterik compositions that can be found on the Christmas CD "I Believe In Christmas".  The set was peppered with precisely executed musical highs and lows within any given song, the dynamics of which kept their first set moving along at a very brisk pace, despite the fact that much of this material was probably unfamiliar to a large percentage of their audience.  (Two stand-out Christmas classics that were performed were the very up-tempo, rocked up version of "The Little Drummer Boy" and an instrumental, trombone-heavy arrangement of one of my Christmas favorites, "O Holy Night".)  

Photo Courtesy Paul Braun, Cygnus Images
One thing that I truly admire about Jim Peterik is his willingness to give up the spotlight and share the stage with the other artists onboard for any given performance.  (His World Stage shows have certainly set the precedent for this.)  When be brought Cathy and Marzette back out to join in on the Christmas festivities they added a beautiful mix to the already spot-on sound of The Ides.  (In fact, Cathy's Christmas song just may have been her best vocal performance of the night!)

Photo Courtesy Paul Braun, Cygnus Images

In their first set, Peterik was decked out in an all red leather suit ... but he came back in set two wearing what can best be described as a full length black boa wrapped over black leather pants and cowboy boots ... make no mistake about it ... with his purple hair and glasses, Jim will forever be the ultimate rock star on stage. (The thing is, this is no put on ... he actually goes grocery shopping dressed this way, too!!!) 

Above Two Photos Courtesy Paul Braun, Cygnus Images

Above Two Photos by Frannie Kotal
(while we clearly don't have the equipment Paul does ... 
these were taken with Frannie's cell phone, lol ... 
these shots were just too good not to share!)

After a brief intermission, the band was back and ready to rock the house.  We were treated to a couple of brand new songs from their forth-coming 50th Anniversary Three-CD Set "The Ides Of March:  Last Band Standing".  (Did I happen to mention that the four original core members of The Ides have ALL stayed together for fifty years?!?!)  Naturally we also got many of the hits we were expecting, including "You Wouldn't Listen" (their first chart single), "Aire Of Good Feeling" (the song that SHOULD have followed "Vehicle" up to the top of the charts in 1970), a new arrangement of "L.A. Goodbye" capitalizing on the violin skills of Anne Harris, the aforementioned "Vehicle" (with a longer horn instrumental than it really needed), a very powerful rendition of a song Peterik wrote for Survivor, "The Search Is Over", wrapping everything up nicely with the encore of Survivor's biggest hit "Eye Of The Tiger", which had the entire floor up on its feet.  (A nice addition to the overall presentation was a video clip that ran continuously in the background on the giant screen behind the band, showing vintage clips of the band, assembled by none other than our own FH Buddy, Clark Besch.) 

The group drew a long line of fans after the show, posing for photographs and signing autographs ...  

Jim even personalized a copy of his biography, "Through The Eye Of The Tiger", for me, thanking us again for our on-going support of the band and Jim's solo career and endeavors. 

We can't WAIT for the box set to come out ... a true career retrospective featuring some rare and collectible tracks long missing from circulation.  You can pre-order a copy now on The Ides' Website, along with some of the other merchandise and memorabilia mentioned above. 

GREAT shows, guys!  One of the best I've seen you do ... and I've got at least 25 or 30 of 'em under my belt so far!  It was a fun night of great music ... and a GREAT way to cap off not only the holiday season but of year-long series of concert events.  (kk)       

 The Final Bow - 
Photo by Frannie Kotal

The Ides of March Christmas show review 12/13/2014   

Before I get into the review of the concert I just want to say a little bit about Arcada Theatre owner and host Ron Onesti. I only know him from attending the shows ... probably upwards of 40 or so over the last few years ... but consider him a “friend” of sorts. He has always been the welcoming face of his establishment. He makes everyone that visits feel like family, in addition to putting together a fantastic bill of acts week after week. I  guess I realized this more this week as he wasn’t in attendance Saturday night as he was feeling a bit under the weather.  Thanks for all you do, Ron!
And now on with the show!
The show began with a duo of local (Elmhurst) performers, Cathy Richardson and Anne Harris, Ms Richardson on acoustic guitar and Ms Harris on violin. Cathy can be best described as Melissa Etheridge with an edge. She has played Janis Joplin on Broadway and has been the lead vocalist of the current reincarnation of Jefferson Starship. Jim Peterik has been her mentor since the beginning.  Despite her years of experience, she just recently got her first recording contract. Her set was comprised of her own compositions. While they weren’t familiar to me, she had a loyal following in attendance Saturday night. The one song that stood out was one she had written for a commercial promoting an unknown feminine product. It was a motivational song of sorts, similar to Helen Reddy’s “I am Woman”. Congratulations Cathy on your new record deal.
Next up the Ides of March. This band has been together for 50 years ... with the same members. They started out as a garage band when they  were in high school, some friends since the 6th grade. As the show progressed there were videos and stills of them taken throughout their career being played on the screens about the stage. The videos included a segment from American Bandstand. There was a large contingent of loyal and vocal Ides fans in attendance.
The first set was comprised of Christmas music ... primarily religion-based material. The band was dressed in “Christmas casual” attire, sweaters and all. Jim wore a red leather suit. The song that stood out for me was “The Little Drummer Boy” which featured a snare drum solo. 
photo by Frannie Kotal
After a short intermission the band returned as the rockers we have loved for all these years. Jeans and T shirts replaced the Andy Williams look and Jim was dressed in black with a long feathered coat and leather pants.  This set was all Ides hits including “L.A. Goodbye” and concluding with their biggest hit, “Vehicle”. The encore was the theme from Rocky III …. "Eye of the Tiger", written and recorded when Jim was playing with Survivor. The crowd went crazy over the last two songs.
Overall, the band looked and sounded great for being around for 50 years ... they never lost a beat. I’d recommend seeing them when you get the chance. I know they have been known to do a summer festival now and again. They have a new triple disc set coming out this summer, comprised of remastered material including three new compositions and a live disc.
Scott Schultz
photo by Frannie Kotal

Hey Kent,  

It definitely was Christmas at the Arcada Theatre Saturday night!  The Ides of March put on their annual show, including some special guests as well.   I have been to several Ides Christmas shows, but I have to say I think this was their best yet.  

Starting out, we enjoyed the singing of Cathy Richardson and the violin playing of Anne Harris.  Wow!  Cathy's original songs were terrific and her story of finally getting a record deal at the age of 45 was heartwarming.  Good for her, she deserves recognition.  Anne Harris stole the show, I think, performing in a skin tight white bell bottomed jumpsuit.  That only added to her excellent expertise on the violin. She was mesmerizing!  I wish they could have performed longer.    

Next, we were treated to a song by the latest addition to the Chi-lites, Marzette Griffith.  He sang a beautiful song written for him by Jim Peterik.  It was a beautiful Christmas song.   The crowd loved it.  Too bad they didn't let him sing a Chi-lite song for us as well.  We needed to hear more of him! 

Of course, Jim Peterik and the Ides came ready to rock.  The first set was all Christmas.  Jim had on his red leather pant suit, which goes wonderfully with his purple hair.  You gotta love him!  The band definitely put everyone in the Christmas mood, singing an acoustic set with the standards as well as their original songs.  Sharing Christmas brought me to tears as always. Jim and Scott May's song should be a classic, played every year for generations.  Great to see Mike up front with his rendition of Little Drummer Boy.  Perfect song for him!  And Larry gave us There Is A Boy, great song.    

This one-hour Christmas set was exactly the timing of Ronnie Spector's entire show last week at the Arcada.  I was there for her show and loved her, but felt totally cheated, as did the crowd, for such a short concert.   For that hour though, she brought down the house and had us all in tears when we heard this icon sing Walking in the Rain.  And let me tell you, for 71 years old, she still has IT!   Great voice, wonderful stage presence, I'm so happy I got to see her in person.   

Back to the Ides ...  

After intermission, the group came back to "rock" the house.  And they surely did.  Jim never fails to give 110 percent at all his concerts.  We were treated to all the hits.  I've been to the Arcada many times and I was in the balcony this time, my favorite place to sit.  I have to say I thought the sound was terrific Saturday night.  The people around us were so into the concert and respectful of the ones around them ... thank you very much ... and we could hear every note clearly.  

How many times can we hear Vehicle and still love it?   Thousands!  It never gets old.  And Jim singing a tribute to Jimi Jamison was heartfelt.  His best singing of The Search Is Over yet.  Jim brought back Cathy and Anne and Marzette for some of the songs, and that added a new dimension to old favorites.  It was nice to hear a violin playing Vehicle.  

Merry Christmas and thanks to the Ides for a great show.  Best wishes to Ron Onesti who missed the Ides because he was under the weather ... he missed a good one!  

Janet (Mom Weiner1)

Photo by Frannie Kotal

Congrats to the Ides of March.    

As a rule, I really just don't enjoy Christmas music. Trust me, when I hear "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire" I grab my coat and make a beeline to the car or the bar.    

But ... that doesn't mean there can't be the occasional home run.    

Saturday at the house that the Onestis rebuilt, the Arcada Theater, the band went through a very brisk, but touching, series of Christmas tunes. Honestly, I was fully prepared to take a sleeping pill, but when the group took the stage they just resonated with a very rich brand of holiday spirit.   

In particular, Jim's vocal on "Little Drummer  Boy" illustrated that this Chicago Rock n' Roll Godfather hasn't lost his fast ball.    

Later, of course, The Ides, with Jim wearing a full length jet-black fur coat and his, now, trademark cowboy boots, came out and rocked the building.    

Naturally, "L.A. Goodbye", "Vehicle" and slam dunk covers of Survivor's "The Search Is Over" and "Eye Of The Tiger" were off the charts terrific.   

I've always had a special place in my heart for "L.A. Goodbye." It's at once soulful, ethereal and more than a bit tearful. The fact that Peterick and his band mates can still bring forth the elegant harmony and the rush of emotion is a testament to remarkably talented guys who love their music.    

Hey, I get a great kick out of Jim in his red leather pants,  I get a kick out of his purple hair. He is first, last and always a rocker.   

The Ides are celebrating their 50th year. I recommend them to anybody who wants an evening of bad ass rock 'n roll with a sassy horn section. The Ides are pulsating ... another Chicago band, much like the New Colony Six, that never got the "push" it deserved from its record labels.    

The Ides of March Christmas Show - 4-Stars. A wonderfully crafted evening of joy, funk and fun.    

Chet Coppock
Author: Chet Coppock: Laying it on the Line

Backstage Photo Courtesy Paul Braun, Cygnus Images