Bringing classic hits like “Make Me Smile” and “Just You ‘N’ Me” to the Plaza next Wednesday, March 29 is the one and only Chicago. The group is in the middle of what figures to be two of biggest landmark years in the group’s career.
In April 2016, the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – an honor that came in Chicago’s 20th year of eligibility.
A new documentary on Chicago, “Now More Than Ever: The History of Chicago,” was screened in February at the Sedona International Film Festival and was voted Best of Fest. And on New Year’s Day, it premiered on CNN and grabbed top ratings for its time slot among adults aged 25 to 54.
And 2017 has brought another milestone – the 50th anniversary of the band.
That’s enough to have singer-keyboardist Robert Lamm feeling fully appreciative of his career with Chicago.
“I’ve always said that whether it’s the Hall of Fame or getting a platinum album or getting a Grammy, it’s certainly not the reason that one becomes a musician,” Lamm said. “Those are the ruby red shoes. But the fact that we’re going into our 50th year, we’ve had this incredibly magical career and we’ve met so many wonderful people and had such great experiences together – I’m just absolutely grateful that the Hall of Fame has given us the nod.”
The original edition of Chicago, which formed in Chicago in 1967, is the lineup that was inducted into the Hall. They put the group on the music map, enjoying a steady string of hit singles including “Saturday In The Park,” “25 Or 6 To 4” and “If You Leave Me Now.” Tragedy struck in January 1978, when late guitarist Terry Kath died of an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound.
After a few years of transition, producer David Foster helped the group develop a ballad-oriented, less horn-driven sound during ’80s and ’90s. They produced a string of hits that included “Hard To Say I’m Sorry,” “Look Away” and “You’re The Inspiration.”
Today’s band lineup includes Lamm, James Pankow, Lee Loughnane, Ray Hermann (woodwinds), Lou Pardini (keyboards), Jeff Coffey (bass, vocals), Keith Howland (guitar), Tris Imboden (drums) and Walfredo Reyes Jr. (percussion) – and the occasional new album – the most recent of which was 2014’s “Chicago XXXVI: Now.”
While album sales have fallen off, Chicago has remained a popular live act and continues to tour for much of each year. And that’s what they’re doing now as they head into the headlining portion of its touring year.
“We’ve learned that there are certain songs the audience has to hear and wants to hear, and because we get such a lovely reaction when we do, we’ve kept a lot of that stuff in the set,” Lamm said.