Show Number One: Chicago and Earth, Wind & Fire at SPAC, August 29

After years of radio play and later, jam band covers from the extensive catalog of both bands, I was finally able to see Chicago and Earth, Wind & Fire. Performing together and separately  at Saratoga Performing Arts Center on Saturday, August 29. I am still surprised that I hadn’t seen either of them in the past, but a co-bill for the two bands that presented the bands in a ‘Don’t worry, you won’t miss a moment’ manner was as ideal as you can get for a late summer show at SPAC. The audience filled nearly every inch of the SPAC lawn with chairs for an incredible night of ’70s and ’80s funk and soul. Here’s my take on my first time seeing Chicago and Earth, Wind & Fire.

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  • Both bands came out at the start of the night together singing “Got to Get You Out of My Mind” by The Beatles.
  • Incredibly, and despite having 20+ musicians on stage, you can hear the sound clear as day. Great mix.
  • Bassist Verdine White from Earth, Wind & Fire asked “Is there a Chicago/Earth, Wind & Fire dance party in the house?” and it was too cheesy to not laugh.
  • Heavy ’70s soul groove with these two bands on the stage. You figure they had to share bills together back in the Nixon/Ford/Carter years.
  • The stage is symmetrical with pianos, drums and horns spread out evenly – not a bad angle in the house.
  • When Robert Lamm said “We had no idea we would be around this long,” I nodded my head in agreement. It’s even more surprisingly the band has toured every single year since they first formed.
  • “Boogie Wonderland” – people were dancing or sitting – they couldn’t figure out what to do. Regardless, Earth, Wind & Fire was the set to dance to.
  • After a few tunes, and knowing they had to be saving “Shining Star” and “September” for the encore, I realized I do not know much Earth, Wind & Fire and need to go through the full catalog soon.
  • A solid mix of live footage and photos from the past were seen on the video screen throughout the set.
  • The SPAC lawn was not that bad. Phish fans, myself included, complain about the sound on the lawn. Definitely not an issue tonight. I regretted not bringing earplugs.
  • Band intros went on for a while, then they introduced the three original members of the band, Philip Bailey, Maurice White and Ralph Johnson.
  • I know these songs, but not the titles, the result of years of casual radio play.
  • Maurice can hit some HIGH notes!
  • “Let’s Groove” was a perfect closer

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  • After a short set break, I realized I hadn’t been to SPAC with both my parents, ever. Last time I was here with my mom, I saw Huey Lewis and the News in 1989.
  • “I’m so happy that you love me.” Sometimes, the song titles just write themselves.
  • I’d estimate that half of this crowd had Chicago and/or Earth, Wind & Fire songs as their wedding reception music.
  • Hell, half of this crowd had to make out/get laid to any of these songs. This is baby-making music for Boomers.
  • “You’re the Inspiration” is such a dad rock song, if dad is serenading mom.
  • Chicago covers “I’m a Man” by Spencer Davis Group. One of my favorite all time rock songs and it has had a second life this whole time. This is awesome. If I wasn’t a Chicago fan before.
  • The drums section in “I’m a Man” was unexpected and impressive. This provided a perfect counterbalance to the overly mellow “Inspiration.”
  • I have my mom’s copy of Chicago Transit Authority and she’s not getting it back.
  • “Street Player” is a damn fine and energetic disco era song. Someone start covering this, please.
  • Some of these songs do sound the same when played in succession. “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” is the spring from which all others grow.
  • People are snuggling. This is cute.
  • “Saturday Night in the Park,” was pretty spot on for being in Saratoga Spa State Park on a Saturday night. It’s like they were waiting all week to sing it here.
  • Random pockets of dancing popped up throughout the crowd intermittently for Chicago, a band best enjoyed from a seat.
  • No matter the song, someone in the crowd knew it and sang along. We all sang along at some point.

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  • “September” and “Sing a Song” started the final songs of the night, getting everyone back up again.
  • “Does Anybody Really Know What Time it is?” was sweet and preceded “Shining Star”, leaving enough time for…
  • “25 or 6 to 4” – I have loved this song since first listen when I was maybe 12 or so. It might be the first time I ever heard it played live, outside of a high school holiday concert in 2005. Beyond that, only teases from jam bands. Hearing this live was a treat.
  • I need to get Chicago and Earth, Wind & Fire back into my life – two fantastic bands crossed off the list.

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