In the history of American rock music, two bands have remained titans of the genre when it comes to sales figures and longevity: the Beach Boys and Chicago.
Both bands have toured and recorded in various incarnations throughout the years, but Chicago remains the most consistent and prolific in terms of output, having released more than 30 studio albums, live recordings, anthologies and box sets since the late ’60s.
The band brings its jazz-infused, harmony-heavy, horn-tinged sound to Northern Quest Casino this weekend, and although ticket prices hovered around the $100 mark, the show is sold out. If you were lucky enough to snag one of those tickets, you’ll see that Chicago is still a force to be reckoned with: After all, how many bands in their fourth decade can still pack a theater?
Originally billed as the Big Thing and later renamed Chicago Transit Authority, the band was an immediate success upon releasing its first self-titled album in 1969, and Chicago would go on to sell more than 38 million albums and score 21 Top 10 singles. One of the dominant groups of ’70s AM radio, their songs remain a staple of classic rock and oldies stations: Not a day goes by that you don’t hear one or more of their hits – “25 or 6 to 4,” “Saturday in the Park,” “Baby, What a Big Surprise,” “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” – during your commute.
Although most of the band’s core members contributed original songs, it was bass player Peter Cetera who was responsible for the band’s biggest singles, the No. 1 ballads “If You Leave Me Now” and “Hard to Say I’m Sorry.” Cetera left Chicago to focus on his solo career in ’86, but the touring band still includes four founding members – keyboardist Robert Lamm, trumpeter Lee Loughnane, trombone player James Pankow and saxophonist Walter Parazaider.
Their style might not be as hip as it was in their heyday, but Chicago has become a rock ’n’ roll institution, and they’re touring at the rate of a much younger band. Just last year, the group released several new singles from a forthcoming album (their 34th) on their website, and in January they performed a medley of their hits with Robin Thicke on the Grammys telecast.