Written by Dave Clements
Jul 22, 2012 at 08:00 PM
ImageIt was Sunday night in The Woodlands, TX and two cool bands, the Doobie Brothers & Chicago, were in town to give us their best effort. I came into the evening a little burnt out. I had seen seven shows and thirteen bands perform in the last 10 days. I love good music and I knew that it was going to take REALLY GOOD music to ‘get me through the night’! When escorted by our friends from Live Nation to the front of the stage for photos I thought to myself, If I can just get a few decent shots and the band cranks it up a bit I can make it through the night! Bottom line? I made it through with flying colors!

The Doobies were the first of the two headliners to take the stage. The audience was nearly 8,000 strong. The band seemed impressed, as were my wife and I, at the size of the crowd. They jumped right into one of their many hits, instantly recognizable and so classic Doobies.

My biggest surprise of the evening was how different the band can sound ‘vs’ what I had always heard on the radio. They showed me how diverse they could be with acoustic guitars when they played what they called an ‘acoustic medley’. Also included in their set were some pretty darn good blues tunes. It seems the almost dozen guys on stage really like to play the blues! Worked for me, however I’m not sure the crowd responded with my same level of enthusiasm. Not surprising I guess that the fans would want to hear the many classic hits from this band that’s been around since 1970.

Image‘Black Water’ was a particular crowd favorite with most audience members loudly singing along. Hearing lyrics edited to ‘Texas moon won’t you keep on shinin’ on me’ got roaring applause. When they got to the copula harmonies toward the end of this song I had long since forgotten my threatening fatigue from earlier in the evening. I can’t sing a lick so for some reason this kind of pure harmonizing is especially impressive to me.

‘Without Love’ also got the audience to their feet but I was still blissed out from ‘Black Water’. The band had come together during the harmonizing, shoulder to shoulder, for this photographer’s dream shot. A shot that you will NOT see in the HMR photo gallery because, of course, my camera had been stowed after the two opening songs. Guess they didn’t get the memo that I wanted that shot for our faithful HMR readers! By the way, I’ll go ahead and say that Chicago did not come together for me either but I did not expect them to…but I did with the Doobies!

‘China Grove’ was another classic hit they gave us with some really significant electric guitar. Awesome riffs that would for sure make my ‘highlights reel’.

Chicago the city – pretty nice place to visit, wouldn’t want to live there. Chicago the band – simply incredible once again. From the first note played, all the way to the end they gave their fans every single bit of energy they had to give. They gave us terrific lighting, amazing sound, and brilliant team showmanship! I’d suggest to you they are a ‘music experience par excellence’. Yes, they are just that good!

Did I mention showmanship? If you want to see some incredible, fun, thoroughly enjoyable energy just keep your eyes on James ‘Jimmy’ Pankow, the band’s trombonist. This 72 year old powerhouse is inspirational. Check out the Photo Gallery to see if I managed to capture some of that energy on film. What a great cheerleader for his band mates too. He is what Lindsay Buckingham is to Fleetwood Mac. A spark plug that keeps firing on and on.

And speaking of inspiration, when the band played ‘You’re My Inspiration’ on this Sunday night the fans were transformed into a congregation, worshiping in the church of Chicago. That was just one of back to back to back inspiring songs about life and love.

Not only does Chicago give so much to the audience but they give back to the community as well. They have selected the American Cancer Society as their charity of choice, certainly a good one. My hat’s off to them for doing that and for making it known.

I hope you will indulge me while speaking of charities to plug the one I work closely with, The International Rett Syndrome Foundation. My buddy, singer/songwriter Kevin Black, lost his daughter Cortney to Rett Syndrome at the age of 13. Just like Chicago has been doing for ACS, for the last several years he and I, along with his brother Clint Black, have been working to raise awareness and funds to find a cure for this dreadful neurological disorder. If you’re so inclined you can learn more at www.SpendingTimeEndingRett.com. Thank you.

ImageBack to the music, ‘(I’ve Been) Searchin’ So Long’ was part of their set and beautifully played. If you’re searching for an answer to the question about which band was best, with an incredibly full, rich, delightful sound on stage, song after song, my money is on Chicago!

Each band member was featured at some point in the show, all first rate performers. The funny thing is that I can’t tell you most of these guys’ names. It’s to their credit that whether leading or supporting another member in the spotlight, this is a perfectly executed collective effort.

Peter Cetera (former ‘voice’ of Chicago) came into my mind at some point during the show and I quickly concluded two things. One is that there were still plenty of classic Chicago sounding vocals up on that stage and two is that this band has a wonderful sound without adding any of his vocals to even one song!

Another observation in comparing these two headliners on this night is that if you close your eyes and listen, even if you weren’t familiar with these band’s songs, you could pull out the Chicago tunes. There’s just no missing the full sound that the massive horn section contributes.

Of course their set included ‘Hard Habit to Break’ (with great vocals!), ‘Only the Beginning’, and ‘I’m a Man’ – what a groove that song has! Don’t know any better way to describe it.

I’m trying to shut down this review but I can’t yet. There is still more to tell! I’ll try to be brief.

How ‘bout that drum/percussion duel?! These two guys went toe to toe, sticks to sticks, mano a mano, and a fight to the end. And the winner was……you got it. US! Period!

To top off this rockin’ evening both bands took the stage for a 30 minute encore. On stage together they played the best of the Doobie Brothers and the best of Chicago. I counted them up there on tier one and tier two. SEVENTEEN classy musicians, giving their all playing each others songs. They effectively created the perfect ending to this wonderful, invigorating evening of music that I won’t soon forget.

Now, does anybody really know what time it is? Yes, it’s either 25 or 6 to 4 … or time for me to go!

Hope you’re keeping it between the navigational beacons!