Friday, February 2, 2018

Jim Peterik's World Stage Concert Review

photo by Brett Beiner

Review in a Word:  Wow!  

I’ve never been to a World Stage show before … which is pretty amazing when you consider that the show we saw (as Jim Peterik’s guests) last Saturday Night, January 20th, was his 19th presentation.

The concert event played to a full house at Wentz Concert Hall / Fine Arts Center in Naperville, Illinois, a beautiful place to see a concert (unless you happened to be sitting up in the nose bleed seats behind the stage … fortunately, we weren’t … we were right behind Jim’s family, front and center in the theater.)  Jim explained the “rear seating” as “these are people that bought their tickets really, really late!”  (Actually, a good number of them were teachers and staff from North Central College … and they enjoyed the show just as much as everyone else!)

The concept is simple … Jim Peterik presents a wide variety of his music originally written and performed with The Ides Of March, Survivor, .38 Special, Pride Of Lions and more … but to keep things interesting, he always invites some “special guests” to participate and, as such, we are treated to some of THEIR greatest hits as well.  (Over the years, Jim has been joined on stage by Steve Cropper, Alan Parsons, David Pack of Ambrosia, Ray Parker, Jr., Jimmy Sohns as well as members of Night Ranger, REO Speedwagon, The Motels, Santana, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Toto, Starship, Three Dog Night, Vanilla Fudge and more.

For this year’s concert, Jim’s co-headliner was Mark Farner, founding member (as well as the voice, the heart and the soul) of Grand Funk Railroad.

photo by Frannie Kotal

I’ve missed several opportunities over the years to see Mark Farner in concert (and even blew the chance to interview him the year he was touring as part of The Happy Together Tour because I couldn’t clear my schedule on a weekday afternoon when he was available.)

I grew up listening to Farner’s music … Grand Funk Railroad was my brother’s favorite band so it played non-stop at our house.  I became familiar with it thru osmosis … and became a bit of a fan myself.  (On the way to the show, Frannie asked me if I thought he’d do “Bad Time” … (that’s one of her all-time favorites.)  I said I really wasn’t sure … “As part of his OWN concert,” I said, “most definitely” … but as part of a limited set length that might only include four or five songs, I just wasn’t sure if that one would make the cut.  

“He’ll definitely do ‘The Locomotion’ and ‘Some Kind of Wonderful,’” I said … (which, of course, he did) … songs that many of us felt at the time were “sell out moves” made just for the sake of making a hit record … but as far as the REAL music of Grand Funk … the music that defined the band and made them one of the top-selling acts in America during the early ‘70’s … I wasn’t so sure.

Turns out that not only did Farner do “Bad Time” … he also explained how that record was the most-played record in America in 1975.  “It never made it to #1,” he said … “but it got PLAYED more than the #1 records.” 

He also did “Closer To Home” (the full-length “I’m Your Captain” / “Closer To Home” version) and opened his set with “Rock ‘n’ Roll Soul” … but he DIDN’T do “We’re An American Band,” a #1 Hit Record from 1973 that introduced the band to a whole new audience. 

He was fun to watch … totally animated, prancing around the stage like not a day had passed since the glory days of the early-to-mid ‘70’s.  He was clearly having a ball … and the audience loved it, too.   I would DEFINITELY go back to see one of Mark's solo shows.  (In fact, he'll be back at The Arcada Theatre on April 28th!)

photo by Tim Bales

But wait … I’m getting ahead of myself.  Farner CLOSED the show.  Prior to Mark taking the stage, we were treated to 3 ½ hours of non-stop rock and roll, presented by a core band that included Ed Breckenfeld on Drums, Klem Hayes on Bass, Christian Cullen on Keyboards and Mike Aquino on Guitar … each and every one of them a top-notch musician in their own right.  (I have to admit it was weird to see Jim Peterik on stage NOT playing lead guitar!  He’s one of the best!)  But Mike Aquino was simply amazing … he blew us away … and gave Jim the chance to bounce back between guitar and keyboards during their set. 

They were all accompanied by The Ides Of March Horns:  Steve Eisen on Sax, Tim Bales on Trumpet and Henry Salgado on Trombone … and the incredible background vocals of Colin Peterik, Yvonne Gage and Riley Pettrone. 

The show opened with the Survivor / .38 Special song “Rockin’ Into The Night,” a GREAT opening track, followed by “Burning Heart” and then “Caught Up In You,” performed more in “The Songs” re-imagined vein with  Andy Ohlrich on fiddle, beautifully synchronized to a video from the recording session that also featured Chihsuan Yang, who we’ve featured in Forgotten Hits before.   

Jim’s son Colin Peterik then took center stage to perform a song called “Body Language” before rejoining the other background singers.  (I would have liked to have seen more of Colin who, I’m told, had about a 15 minute spotlight treatment at last year’s World Stage Concert.  He’s a great pianist who Saturday Night accompanied himself on guitar.) 

Next up … Toby Hitchcock. 

Why isn’t this guy a household name??? MAN, what a voice!!! 

He’s about as unlikely looking a rock star as you’ll ever see … but the minute he opens his mouth these INCREDIBLE vocals fill the concert hall … the power and range of his voice are spine-chilling.

photo by Brett Beiner

Toby did a short set that included a few of his Pride Of Lions tracks and wrapped things up with a medley of two Survivor tracks, “High On You” and “I Can’t Hold Back.”  (I’m not quite sure I understood this one … with Survivor original lead singer Dave Bickler also on hand, I would have figured HE would have been tackling all of the Survivor tracks that night … but that being said, Toby also did an outstanding job with these. 

Then background singers Riley Pettrone and Yvonne Gage took center stage to perform an absolutely stunning and beautiful reading of the Michael Jackson classic “Man In The Mirror.”  It was absolutely perfect … and I loved the way they didn’t try to imitate Michael’s recording but instead put their own touch to it, while still allowing the familiarity of the original to shine through.  It was an exquisite performance … and a REAL change of pace … since the next guy to come bursting on stage was none other than Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick!!!

 photo by Brett Beiner

photo by Brett Beiner

Yes, the crowd went expectedly wild … and deservedly so.  Rick joked that he was going to do a song and then head back to the old people’s home and go to bed … but from the opening chord of “Surrender,” the whole crowd was up on their feet, cheering on what had to be the ultimate climax of the show thus far.  

He left the stage throwing a flurry of guitar pics out into the audience and I’ve gotta tell you, I wasn’t quite sure how ANYBODY would follow that.
The guy left in that unenviable and nearly impossible position was Dave Bickler, original lead singer of Survivor, who, quite honestly, didn’t look physically up to the challenge.   

 photo by Kath Galasso

Bickler fronted the band for about 4 ½ years and was around long enough to sing their all-time biggest hit, “Eye Of The Tiger,” which would be saved for the grand finale.  Having been the front man for that length of time, he looked a little bewildered up there and I got the impression that maybe he hadn’t been singing for a while, although he did mention having just recorded a new tune called “Hope,” which he also performed.  He was beaming proud that his whole family was there to see his triumphant return to the stage … I just wish he looked a little bit happier about it himself!  (He seemed very uncomfortable back in the spotlight … and I think Jim may have been trying to give a boost to his old friend who, prior to forming Survivor, used to sing jingles with Peterik while they were between bands.) 

His set consisted of a few lesser-known Survivor songs that some of the real die-hard fans in the audience recognized (but probably left the majority of the audience scratching their heads.)  One tune he did that sounded exceptionally good was an early favorite of mine, “Poor Man’s Son,” a Top 20 Hit here in Chicago back in 1981.  Man, it was great to hear this one again (so I’ve included it here for you to enjoy, too.)

Personally, I would have given anything to see him sing his Jamestown Massacre hit “Summer Sun” over a couple of the Survivor tunes … and I think the overall feel of that track might have made his set a bit more uplifting as well.  (It’s virtually impossible to sit still during “Summer Sun” … it’s just one of those songs that grabs you and your feet start moving the moment it comes on.) 

After a brief intermission, The Ides Of March took the stage.  Jim prepared us ahead of time that they’d be featuring some of the songs from “The ‘70’s Ides Of March,” which meant we weren’t treated to one of my all-time favorites, “You Wouldn’t Listen,” The Ides’ first hit record and a staple of ALL of their performances. 

photo by Brett Beiner

Also missing was “Aire Of Good Feeling,” another fan favorite.  Instead we got “Music Messenger” and “Live Life” and another stirring rendition of Survivor’s “The Search Is Over,” clearly a song that means a whole lot to Jim Peterik in many ways.

It's nothing short of amazing that the four core members of The Ides of March (Jim Peterik, Larry Millas, Guitar, Bob Bergland, Bass, and Mike Borch, Drums) have stayed together since the very first time they got together in a Berwyn Basement some 52 years ago.  Joined by Scott May on Keyboards (who's already a 30-year veteran!), these guys never give less than 1000% on stage.  ALWAYS a delight to see.  

And then it was time for yet another surprise guest. 

After playing “L.A. Goodbye,” Jim brought out Danny Seraphine, the original drummer from Chicago, who sat in on The Ides’ set-closer “Vehicle.”  (Danny had a concert the following night at The Arcada Theatre with The Buckinghams so this was a nice way for him to do a little “warming up” before his big show!) 

But he wasn’t finished next …

He brought out his CTA Guitarist Marc Bonilla, who joined the complete group on stage (meaning all of the World Stage Players AND The Ides Of March, along with Danny Seraphine still on drums) … plus Toby Hitchcock on lead vocals ... and then this monstrous montage of musicians performed an absolutely KILLER rendition of the big Chicago hit “25 Or 6 To 4” to nothing short of thunderous applause.  (And I can attribute a good amount of that applause to Danny’s guitarist, Marc Bonilla … Jim Peterik is amazing … Mike Aquino is one of the best I’ve ever seen … but Marc Bonilla is out of this world … just CRAZY good … I have NEVER seen fingers move so quickly up and down the fret-board of a guitar, belting out one of the most impressive guitar solos this side of Terry Kath … in fact, I can honestly say that I’ve never heard the REAL group Chicago perform this song as well as it sounded Saturday Night!  And Toby sang it as well as it's ever been sung.  Simply put:  The place was on fire!) 

photo by Brett Beiner
And then it was time for the Mark Farner set we told you about earlier before a full scale finale that included ALL of the players (minus Rick Nielsen, of course, who by now was safely tucked away in bed, probably well into the first dozen of his 40 winks) to perform the show-closer, “Eye Of The Tiger.” 

photo by Brett Beiner
It was an incredible night of music performed by some of the top notch musicians out there today.  I can only hope that Jim will be so kind as to invite us to next year’s show, too!!!
Kent Kotal
Forgotten Hits

We ran into a couple of Forgotten Hits Readers at the show and one of them, Art Walicki, turned in his own review of this concert event ...

Here is my two-cents on the Jim Peterik World Stage show ... 


First, let me say what a great venue this is to see a show. This was my first time to Wentz Hall and I don't think there is a bad seat in the house. My wife and I had seats in the second row of the balcony and they were great. 

This was also my first World Stage show and I was not disappointed. In fact, I was blown away by all the surprise guests. It was great to see Rick Nielsen from Cheap Trick ... I just wish he would of stayed for more than one song. 

Actually, all of the guests were great. I was not familiar with Dave Bickler, but he also did an admirable job. 

The cherry on top for me was Mark Farner. 


He performed perfectly, sounded great and had a lot of energy. I was hoping for some more deeper tracks of Grand Funk, but at least we got to hear Closer to Home / I'm Your Captain. The other songs to me were more pop than Grand Funk, but it was still great to hear Mark do them. 

My only very minor disappointment was I thought that the show included too many Survivor songs. Nothing against Survivor, but I was hoping to hear some more Ides songs or other local songs. Just my personal nit-pick. 

All in all for all of the seniors on and off the stage, it was a high energy rock n' roll show. It looked like the people on stage were having as much fun as the people off the stage. And it showed in their performance. 

I’m already am looking forward to next year’s show. Jim Peterik NEVER disappoints. Rock On!
-- Art Walicki