Doobie Bros., Chicago hits just kept coming

A double bill like Chicago and the Doobie Brothers together sounds like a fun night at the Saratoga

A double bill like Chicago and the Doobie Brothers together sounds like a fun night at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.

And it was Thursday night, filled with good players and tasteful hits, some of the largest hits ever. But the Doobie Brothers, who opened the show, made it clear they were not there to play an oldies show. They cranked up a solid, highenergy rock ’n’ roll set that didn’t just bring back memories, it created new ones for those that came.

Right from the start, when they broke out “Jesus Is Just Alright” for the second song, the band was tight, fired up and in full stride. Their signature “triple threat” guitarists — old timers Tom Johnston and Pat Simmons, and John McFee, who joined in ’79, close enough to original — included their standard two drummers. Despite the heavy volume, the music stayed clear and distinguishable.

For the fourth song, Simmons and McFee played alone on acoustic, setting the stage for the band to return for “South City Midnight Lady,” offering us a fleeting glimpse of their gentler selves. Marc Russo played a perfect sax solo for this tune.

Then came the string of heavyduty hits people expected, starting with “Rockin’ Down the Highway.” Johnston’s distinctly recognizable voice sounded like it always has. They followed immediately with the trickling guitar of “Black Water,” the harmonies fresh and youthful. Apparently, the Doobies’ sound hasn’t aged, only the fans have.

They played a potent “China Grove” and followed with “Long Train Runnin’” from the same album, finally bringing the pavilion to its dancing feet. The way the Doobies played Thursday night, they deserved a dancing crowd the entire night. While they only had an hour, they managed to dig into some heavy blues, played a wide range of songs, and left the fans revved high for Chicago.

Then out came Chicago, crashing through with their enormously enthusiastic “Question 67 & 68,” the horns blaring the original arrangement, then right into an abridged version of “Dialogue,” the great tune from their political days. Terry Kath’s throaty vocals were missing in spots, and they forced the song rather than let it settle.

They launched into the entire medley from their second album, which offered the two jewels — “Make Me Smile” and the classic “Colour My World.” Original member Walter Parazaider played the familiar flute solo to end the song. Drummer Tris Imdoben nailed every drum note on the Danny Seraphine solo.

They brought on a young friend to sing Pete Cetera’s “If You Leave Me Now,” giving it a Las Vegas treatment, a side of Chicago that occasionally seeps out. This was fun.

“You’re the Inspiration,” what they called their largest hit ever, which was on their 17th album, worked, but didn’t hit home.

Other highlights that scored included “Just You ’n Me,” “Count on Me,” and the very cool “Alive Again,” their hit at the tail end of their rockin’ heyday and their fi rst without Terry Kath. This was good. But at this point they had yet to connect the way the Doobies did.

But then Robert Lamm stepped down from the keyboard platform, strapped on an acoustic and strummed the beginning of his hit “Beginnings,” one of the great tunes of theirs and anyone’s. Lamm sang this like he still loves it, though he didn’t rise at the end like he used to. But originals Lee Loughnane on trumpet and James Pankow on drums traded rounds at the end and then played dueling horns, bringing the song to its climax and rousing the crowd to their highest level since the band took the stage. All was saved.

The hits are endless and they kept coming, like “Saturday in the Park,” with the appropriate lyric, “you’d think it was the 4th of July.” Things were going so well for them by now that “Feelin’ Stronger Everyday” they could’ve played it with gazoos and it would have worked. Fortunately they didn’t.

For the encore, both groups came out to play together — a lot of guitars, drummers, keyboardists and horns everywhere to perform “Rockin Down the Highway” and a killer “(I Just Want to Be} Free.” I’d say everyone probably went home happy.

Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts


No Comment.