Saturday, December 12, 2015

Our Top Five Concerts of 2015

Our countdown continues today of the five best shows we saw in 2015 ...  

#  5 - BRIAN WILSON - The Genesee Theatre - November 11th  

If you're going to go see somebody perform the music of The Beach Boys, you may as well go see the Master Genius himself ... the guy who composed, arranged and orchestrated this timeless music ... and I can't imagine a better vantage point to see him than from the front row at The Genesee Theatre!  Topping off the evening was the fact that we got to take a few of our Forgotten Hits Readers with us.   
Supported by a ten piece band, Wilson ran through the hits in rapid-fire fashion.  Throughout the night, he shared the lead vocal duties with special guest Al Jardine, Al's son Matt (who now handles all of the high harmonies and also solo'd on several tracks), Darian Sahanaja (fresh off the road from The Zombies reunion tour, celebrating their "Odessey and Oracle" album) and Scott Bennett, who was all over the stage filling in on various instruments throughout the performance.  (In fact, many of the members of Brian's band are capable and quite adept and proficient at playing multiple instruments, filling in wherever necessary to give the audience the fullest sound possible ... at times it felt like you were actually in the recording studio, the music was so perfect and precise.) 
Most would call this "the concert of a lifetime" ... and Brian's band is an AMAZING group of accomplished musicians who love and appreciate this music every bit as much as we do.  As such, it made for the PERFECT evening.

#  4 - BURTON CUMMINGS - The Arcada Theatre - September 18th
To say that Burton Cummings put on yet another great show at The Arcada Theatre Friday Night is a given ... we've seen him four times now in the past three years and he never disappoints ... and Friday was no exception ... a rockin' good show from start to finish.  He simply isn't capable of putting on anything less than a great show!  
Burton Cummings held two spots on last year's Best Concerts list ... one for his "Up Close And Alone" show at The City Winery and again for his full band performance at The Arcada.  (That doesn't mean there were slim pickings last year ... it's just that both of these shows were THAT good!  The fact that this music can play so incredibly well in both settings is a true testament to both the songs themselves ... and the man who created them.)   
I've probably seen Burton perform about twenty times now over the years, dating back to his '70's shows with The Guess Who ... right on through his solo shows in the mid-'70's (backing up everyone from Melissa Manchester to Alice Cooper!!!) ... and then again through a couple of the Guess Who reunion shows when they passed through town ... and he has NEVER put on anything less than a stellar show.  Here's hoping he'll be back Chicago way again next year ... this is a show NOT to be missed!
Complete review here:

#  3 - ALAN PARSONS LIVE PROJECT - The Arcada Theatre - May 29th

Last year Parsons captured both the #1 and the #2 spots on our Best Concerts Countdown.  That's because we saw him perform BOTH shows at The Arcada.  After being completely blown away by the 7:00 set, Frannie insisted that we stay for the next show, too ... and, incredibly, it was even better than the first! 
This year's show was every bit as good ... and he easily would have topped our list again were it not for some formidable competition.  Still, for all you doubters out there, check out this band in concert ... you will NOT be disappointed.  (And you locals on the list will have every chance to do so when Parsons returns to The Arcada Theatre on May 7th next year ... once you've seen him, I'll betcha it ranks high on YOUR list of "Best Concerts Ever", too!!!)  In fact, we just watched the dvd of their concert in Spain from 2004 the other night ... just can't get enough of the incomparable Alan Parsons.    
The Alan Parsons Live Project transformed the small, friendly confines of the sold out, historic Arcada Theatre into The Royal Albert Hall for the evening through their musical magic ... it was literally rock and roll royalty putting on a majestic performance of the highest caliber ... the show was nothing short of magnificent.   
To a man, this has to be one of the most accomplished collections of musical talent to ever grace one stage.  Song after song ... EVERY song ... they continued to amaze their very receptive audience, who awarded them with standing ovations throughout the evening as each stellar performance seemed to surpass the last.

#  2 - THE MARTY GREBB BENEFIT CONCERT (starring The Buckinghams with special guests Dennis Tufano and Marty Grebb, The Ides Of March, Ronnie Rice, Jimy Sohns and The Shadows of Knight, The Cryan' Shames, featuring Jim Pilster and Tom Doody, The Chicago Experience, and more) -The Arcada Theatre - May 7th

Nothing topped the electricity of this show for me this year ... to have all of our Local Heroes reunite on stage for one big night ... and for one good cause ... was nothing short of magic.  (The only missing link was the absence of The New Colony Six, who had performed their own benefit concert at The Arcada just a few weeks earlier.  As such, only Ronnie Rice was on hand to represent the band.) 
The show was brilliant from start to finish ... and I was proud to be associated with it in ANY fashion.  Emails exchanged for weeks afterwards ... and the dvd of the entire proceedings should be available shortly.    
I don't care WHEN you've seen The Buckinghams ... WHERE you've seen The Buckinghams ... or in what CONFIGURATION you've seen The Buckinghams ... you have NEVER seen The Buckinghams look and sound like this!!!    
Many of the same players reunited recently for the WTTW - PBS "Cornerstones Of Rock" concert ... and next year, they'll be making several appearances together at concert venues all over the midwest ... The Very Best Of Chicago Rock, together on one stage.   
You can catch our concert review recap here:

#  1 - STEVIE WONDER - The United Center - October 16th

We knew instantly that it was going to be hard to beat THIS show as Concert Of The Year.  The multi-Grammy-winning album "Songs In The Key Of Life", performed in its entirety, live on stage was something to see ... and we wouldn't have missed it for the world.  Stevie's performance was outstanding from start to finish ... and the additional 45 minute encore of non-stop hits was out of this world. 
The show has since been brought to a close ... so we feel VERY fortunate that we were able to see it when we did.
But I'll tell you first hand that Stevie Wonder still has a WHOLE lot to offer as a GREAT entertainer.  Here's hoping he'll be back again real soon, doing a "Greatest Hits" show covering his entire career ... 'cause I wanna see THAT one, too!!!
Wonder pulled out all the stops in his efforts to recreate the album in all its original glory ... at times there were as many as THIRTY musicians, background singers and dancers and musical directors up on stage with him ... including a killer, dynamite brass section as well as a mini orchestra of strings.  I will go on record right here and now and say unequivocally that I can't imagine that Stevie Wonder could have performed this set of music ANY better forty years ago when it was brand new than he did Friday Night at The United Center (nor would have had the resources then to do so.)  Start to finish, it was an amazing, incredible night of music ... with Stevie in EXCELLENT voice throughout.