Concert Reviews

These are the concert reviews I’ve included in my monthly eNewsletter. If you love music as much as I do, call me! I love to talk music. (last updated 4/20/2016)

SFSWho: Sly & The Family Stone (with a James Brown Cover Band)

Where: Arcada Theater, St. Charles, IL

JP Review: They blew the roof off of the Arcada Theater! I last saw them in 1975 and I swear, they were better this time around. After the concert, I got to meet three of the founding members of the group including Cynthia Robinson and got to tell her how much I loved their music. Sly is no longer with the group and hasn’t been for some time. The warm-up was Ty Stone along with a James Brown cover band which sounded really good. The highlight of the Family Stone portion of the concert was them finishing the concert off with “I Wanna Take You Higher”. I absolutely loved this concert.

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Lovin SpoonfulWho: The Lovin’ Spoonful

Where: Arcada Theater, St. Charles, IL

JP Review: I know I say this every time, but these guys were great. All of the original members were there except for John Sebastian. They kicked off the show with “Do You Believe in Magic”, followed by “Nashville Cats”, “Younger Girl”, and after awhile they finished up with “Summer in the City”. The band seemed truly grateful that the audience came out (mostly packed house, smaller theater). My wife made a vow before we left that she wasn’t going to stand-up, sing along or dance, but she ended up breaking those vows 🙂

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Chicago EWFWho: Chicago and Earth, Wind & Fire

Where: Klipsch Music Center, Indianapolis, IN

JP Review: Drove down to Indianapolis to see these bands – both of which I have seen independent of each other several times in the past 40 years (first saw Chicago in 1971).

This was the longest concert I’ve ever seen, it went a full 3 1/2 hours – Chicago and EWF produced a DVD together back in 2005 and I’ve been wanting to see them together-in-concert since.

My favorite song that they did together was “Does Anybody Know What Time It Is?” with Robert Lamb singing lead vocals. Also enjoyed EWF playing “Serpentine” and “Got to Get You Into My Life”. I also really enjoyed the on-stage competition between the horns players for each band and between the guitar players in each band. At the end of the concert, they all did a snake dance around the stage and looked like they were having a lot of fun.

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chWho: Chrissie Hynde & The Pretenders

Where: The Chicago Theater

JP Review: My wife and I had a great time at this show with some friends of ours – Chrissie and the Pretenders looked hot and sounded great. She played her old songs like “Don’t Get Me Wrong”, “Back on the Chain Gang”, and “Ohio” – she is the only original member still left with the band and now she has 3 very young musicians playing along with her. She was once married to Ray Davies of The Kinks and was also married to the lead singer of Simple Minds (Jim Kerr).

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Johnny RiversWho: Johnny Rivers

Where: Arcada Theater

JP Review: Johnny Rivers, who is age 71, looked and sounded great when I saw him a couple of weeks ago. You might recognize some of his biggest hits including “Secret Agent Man”, “Maybelline” and “Mountain of Love”. He got his first break in 1964 at the Whisky a Go Go (THE nightclub, back in the day, for those of you kids who don’t know what that is). The thing I like about an act like Johnny Rivers is that he’s touring because he loves to play. He doesn’t need the money (his net worth is over $100MM) so it’s fun to see someone just doing what they love to do. His 28-year-old son is his drummer which was cool to see too.

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James TaylorWho: James Taylor

Where: Ravinia – Chicago

JP Review: I’ve seen James Taylor before and this is the best concert of his that I’ve seen. He had a large band behind him and he sang his favorites including “Sweet Baby James, “How Great it is (To Be Loved by You)”, and “Fire and Rain”. My favorite part of the concert was when he brought his wife (who used to be a backup singer for him) and 12-year-old son on-stage to sing the last four songs of the show with him. The tear-jerker of the show was the three of them singing “Shower the People You Know With Love” — after that song Taylor’s 12-year-old son fist-bumped all the members of the band. It was a great night for an outdoor show – it’s always a treat to see a show at Ravinia.

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elton-johnWho: Elton John

Where: All-State Arena – Chicago

JP Review: Before I talk about Elton’s part of the concert, I have to mention the warm-up act that played called “2Cellos”. It was two young kids from Croatia who play modern hits on their cellos…it was phenomenal.

I saw Elton in 1974 and 1975 and he was great then…and he didn’t disappoint this time around either. He opened the concert with “Funeral for a Friend” and then played “All the Girls Love Alice” — then he ended with “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” (on a Saturday night). He played for 2 hours and 45 minutes straight and the two guys from “2Cellos” played with him for the entire concert. It was a full-capacity crowd at All-State and we were treated to a great concert.

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John MayerWho: John Mayer

Where: First Midwest Bank Amphitheater

JP Review: Mayer played most of his “old” stuff and also worked in some of the new stuff he’s done with his blues band (reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, etc). I came prepared to listen to his first two albums, but he was more focused on playing his newer stuff which was fine. He has a great new summer song that he has just written in the past couple of months, the name of the song is “Wildfire” and I really liked it.

This is his first concert tour in two years because he had surgery to fix his vocal chords. It was an outdoor venue so the acoustics weren’t great, but the band was good.

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RollingStonesWho: The Rolling Stones

Where: United Center – Chicago

JP Review: I now believe there are two types of people: those who have seen The Rolling Stones and those who haven’t. I don’t know why, but my expectations going into this concert were admittedly low. I figured, “these guys have been around for 50 years, how much can they have left?” Wow, was I wrong. Consider me a Rolling Stones convert.

Cheryl Crow made a surprise appearance singing “Honky Tonk Woman” which brought down the house. They also sang with a gospel choir on a few of the songs. It was nice to see Ronnie Wood hittin’ on a cigarette during the whole show – that made me laugh.

Overall this was just a great show – they had a lot of energy, they sounded good and it was worth the $250 for a nosebleed seat.

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Boz ScaggsWho: Boz Skaggs

Where: Arcada Theater – St. Charles, IL

JP Review: I saw Boz Skaggs again last month. He played his greatest hits including “The Lido Shuffle”and “Low Down”. He just recently released a new Memphis Blues album and did some tracks off of that. He had a 5-piece band with him and he was mellow, but great. I thought the concert was a good mix of new and old and I always love seeing him on stage.

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The WhoWho: The Who

Where: All-State Arena – Chicago

JP Review: Of all the concerts I’ve seen in the last 40 years, this was the biggest, most powerful sound I’ve heard. Fortunately there were guitars harmed during this production – Peter Townsend must have mellowed out in older aging. That said – he still did his patented “clock-winding arm” motion which got the crowd roaring. They played the Quadrophenia album from start to finish and played an encore of six songs after that. One of the coolest part of the concert was them playing with holograms of Keith Moon and John Entwistle. Definitely a good show is you get a chance to see it.

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ColdplayWho: Coldplay

Where: United Center – Chicago

AK Review: Wow. After a couple of blah opening acts, Coldplay really delivered with a high-energy show. This was sort of a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me, the tickets were very expensive relative to how much I would normally spend to a see a band,…so naturally I had high expectations and I believe my expectations were met.

At the door they handed out wristbands and during the Coldplay portion of the concert, each wristband was activated and glowed in a rainbow of colors, so imagine that times 35,000 people and you can get an idea of the visual effect that it was. In addition to that, they had a very involved lighting and stage set-up and blew out confetti and balloons throughout the concert. My main requirement for any band is that they sound as good in-person as they do on their CD and in this respect Coldplay was excellent.

As far as their song selection, they played most of the songs from their new album (Mylo Xyloto) as well as a good selection of older songs including “Yellow”, “Clocks”, “Miss You” and even a brief rendition of “Amsterdam”. Overall I really enjoyed this concert, I might even go so far as to say “the best I’ve ever seen”. A lot of good energy and good message.

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Steve WinwoodWho: Steve Winwood

Where: Chicago Theater

JP Review: This is for you older folks out there 😉 I’ve always been a fan of Steve Winwood and he didn’t disappoint. He started with “I’m a Man”, played his biggest hit, “Send Me a Higher Love” and ended with “Gimme Some Lovin” which had the crowd whipped into a frenzy. Overall, it was a great concert and even through Winwood is now 64-years-old, he’s still got it. As I’ve mentioned before, I love seeing concerts at The Chicago Theater, if you’re even here in the Chicago area and have a chance to see one there, I highly recommend it.

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GilmourWho: David Gilmour

Where: United Center – Chicago

AK Review: When I found out, last Fall, that David Gilmour was coming to Chicago, I booked a ticket immediately. Given that I was born in the early 1980s, I obviously didn’t get a chance to see Pink Floyd in their hey-day and I knew this might be my only chance to see something like this.

I have been a fan of Pink Floyd for quite awhile and what drew me to their music was David Gilmour’s soaring guitar solos in many of their songs. I have not followed his solo career much, but fortunately, when he has done tours to promote other solo albums in the past, he has ended up playing a lot of Pink Floyd songs which is really what everyone wants to hear.

The concert did not disappoint, even though I had built it up in my mind. He opened with a song called “5 A.M.” off his new album and it was a perfect opener. The concert ended up being about 3 hours – he played 7 songs from new album (Rattle That Lock) and 14 old Pink Floyd songs. The Pink Floyd songs included “Wish You Were Here”, “Money”, “High Hopes”, “Astronomy Domine”, “Shine on You Crazy Diamond”, “Sorrow, “Run Like Hell”, “Time” and “Comfortably Numb”.

At the end of the show, they broke out into an all-out laser light show that was absolutely stunning to see. Hearing some of those famous Gilmour guitar riffs in person was also amazing. John and I agree that this concert is one of the best we’ve seen and I feel lucky that I live near one of the three American cities he decided to visit (other two were L.A. and New York).

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Todd RundgrenWho: Todd Rundgren

Where: Arcada Theater – St. Charles

JP Review: I know this one is in the way-back machine, but a song you might know is “Hello, It’s Me“. I went in with pretty low expectations and knowing barely any of his music but came out of this concert a fan and was blown away.

This was the first stop on his new tour so he and his band had a lot of energy. I loved hearing him sing Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You” and Smoky Robinson’s “I Did You Wrong”. He had a great back-up band.

The Black Keys

Who: The Black Keys

Where: The Frank Erwin Center, Dallas, TX

JP Review: I know all of my faithful readers think that the main requirement I have in attending concerts is that the band members have to be over 60…I’m here to say that is not true. Two Words describe this concert: good and LOUD. They started out rocking to “Dead and Gone” and “Next Girl” and slowly brought it down over the course of the concert, finishing up with “Lonely Boy” and “Weight of Love”. 90% of the audience was UT-Austin students so I felt like I stuck out a little. I went with my brother and my niece so at least we had someone younger with us. I preferred their softer songs, but I understand I’m not their target demographic.

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Bennett GagaWho: Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga

Where: Ravinia – Chicago

JP Review: Tony Bennett is 88 years old and still going strong, so impressive to watch him. Lady Gaga seems to have transformed herself into a tremendous torch singer and it was a night full of duets including “Lady is the Tramp”, “Come Fly With Me”, and “Left My Heart in San Francisco”.

On-stage, they had three bands including Tony Bennett’s quartet, a 15-piece horn section and a 4-piece jazz band. Lady Gaga wore a flashy outfit and definitely had some R-Rated moments, but I thought overall the concert was great. It had a little bit of a Vegas Show feel to it (a little campy at times) but these two are pros.

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U2Who: U2 “Age of Innocence’ Tour

Where: United Center – Chicago

JP Review: The honest truth is, I’m not a huge fan of U2 and I left the concert in the same camp. They were great musicians and put on a great show and 99.9% of the people in the crowd seemed to be really enjoying themselves. They played 5 shows here in Chicago which were all sold out so there must be something I am missing. I loved their energy but I guess this just isn’t my kind of music.

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stevie-wonderWho: Stevie Wonder

Where: United Center – Chicago

JP Review: I know that I’ve said this about many of the concerts I’ve been to, but I think this was one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to – up there with Paul McCartney and Justin Timberlake. He played the entire “Songs in the Key of Life” album and performed “Isn’t She Lovely”, “I Wish”, “As” and played some of his other hits including “Superstition” and “My Sharie Amour”. The sound was amazing – he had a full string section, 10 back-up vocalists, and 3 percussionists. His special guest here in Chicago was India Arie. Stevie had the crowd really into it and there was some great people watching – some had crazy outfits and crazy hairdos. At 64, Stevie Wonder has still got it.

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The RascalsWho: The Rascals

Where: Arcada Theater, St. Charles, IL

JP Review: Who are The Rascals? Their two most popular songs are “Groovin'” and “It’s a Beautiful Morning” and their two most famous covers are “Mustang Sally” and “In the Midnight Hour”. I have listened to their albums more than any other band that I can think of. I like their message of peace, love and harmony and their music has left a lasting impression on me. I got to meet the lead singer, Felix Cavallieri and I gushed to him how much I loved his music. He was a really nice guy and seemed very humble. The band sounded great – they played all their hits and I love the intimate setting at the Arcada.

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Chicago REOWho: Chicago & REO Speedwagon

Where: Northerly Island – Chicago

JP Review: This was a double-header of REO Speedwagon and Chicago. It was a perfect night for an outdoor concert and seeing two Chicago-based bands playing separately and together was a treat. Watching REO reminded me of watching the movie “Spinal Tap” but they still sounded great. This was my 4th time seeing Chicago (since 1971) and they played all of their hits. The two bands came together at the end of the show and played some of each other’s songs including “Ridin’ the Storm Out”.

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JTWho: Justin Timberlake and The Tennessee Kids

Where: United Center – Chicago

AK Review: John and I took our wives out on the town to see one of the greatest entertainers of my generation and Timberlake didn’t disappoint.

The show was high energy throughout and Timberlake had a huge supporting cast that included a large band and about six back-up dancers. He himself danced and sung throughout the entirety of the show (2.5 hours) which was impressive in and of itself.

He played a good mix of songs from his new album (“Don’t Hold the Wall”, “TKO”, “Let the Groove Get In”, “Suit & Tie”, etc) mixed with his popular older songs (“What Goes Around”, “Love Stoned”, “Sexy Back”, etc). In the middle of the concert, he did a couple of tribute songs, playing one of Michael Jackson’s most famous songs, “Human Nature” and one of Elvis’ most famous songs, “Heartbreak Hotel”.

For as expensive of a ticket as it was, I thought Timberlake gave the fans all of their money’s worth. The concert was interactive and he kept the energy up the entire time. Everyone stuck around until the last note. I always judge an artist by how they sound live as compared with how they sound on their albums and Timberlake sounds just as good live as he does on his recordings.

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Josh GrobanWho: Josh Groban

Where: Ravinia – Chicago

JP Review: I went in to this concert with somewhat low expectations but I gotta say – I am now a believer. This was an awesome concert and the thing that made this concert great was that he had the Chicago Symphony and a Chicago choral group with him and with their forces combined they put on a great show. He sung 5 of his songs in Spanish and those songs had a great Latin feel to them.

The most touching moment of the concert was when he had a local wheel-chair bound fan come up on stage with him and sign (sign-language) the lyrics for “You Raise Me Up” — there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

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Bob SegerWho: Bob Seger w/ Joe Walsh

Where: United Center – Chicago

JP Review: Joe Walsh opened up playing ‘Rocky Mountain Way’, ‘Seems to Me’ and ‘Life in the Fast Lane’. Bob Seger was the crowd-pleaser and brought down the house with ‘Roll Me Away’, ‘Fire Down Below’, and ‘Turn the Page’. I’ve been to a lot of a concerts in my lifetime, and I’ve never seen so many completely hammered people, most of them wearing black leather jackets. I really did enjoy the concert, Seger still has it. Some trivia for you; Joe Walsh was recently wed to Ringo Starr’s wife’s sister.

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Emmylou HarrisWho: Emmylou Harris

Where: The Genesee Theater

JP Review: Emmylou Harris is in the same genre as Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson – Bluegrass music with that distinctive country feel. The concert was very good – complete with fiddles and steel-string guitars. That said – my wheelhouse is the Al Green’s and Stevie Wonder’s of the world so I can’t say that this concert swept me off my feet.

Emmylou Harris runs a dog-rescue operation, called “Bonaparte’s Retreat“, and at the end of the show she brought two of her dogs on-stage, I thought that was really cool. She said that she always travels with a couple of dogs.

If Country-music and Bluegrass music is your cup of tea, Emmylou Harris would be right up your alley.

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David ByrneWho: David Byrne & St. Vincent

Where: Chicago Theater

JP Review: David Byrne has teamed up with a band called St. Vincent which is comprised of Annie Clark (vocals) and six horn players. If you like Bjork or Annie Lennox, you will like this combination. The overall feel of the music is soul-music and New Orleans jazz mixed together. I really enjoyed this concert – even though I didn’t know many of the songs, the band had an infectious energy and the combination of David Byrne with Annie Clark was excellent.

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Chicago Doobie BrosWho: Chicago & The Doobie Brothers

Where: Northerly Island – Chicago

AK Review: We arrived a little late so we missed most of the Doobie Brothers’ opening set but arrived in time to catch “Black Water”. Chicago came on shortly after and played a pretty long set that included many of their mellower tunes including “You’re the Inspiration”, “If You Leave Me Now”, and “Hard Habit to Break”. The real highlight of the show was when the two bands came on-stage together. They played 6 or 7 songs, alternating between Doobie Brothers hits and Chicago hits. These were more up-beat songs including “I Just Wanna Be Free” by Chicago and “Takin’ it to the Streets” by the Doobie Brothers. They had the crowd whipped into a frenzy by the end.

I gotta say, for being in their 60s, both bands still have it. The singing was great, the musicianship was excellent and you can tell these guys are up there doing it because they love it. Plus, I can now say I saw Chicago IN Chicago…so there’s that. I definitely recommend going to see these guys if you have a chance – it’s a great show.

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Lenny-KravitzWho: Lenny Kravitz

Where: Chicago Theater

JP Review: This was an incredible performance and I would rank it up there with concerts I’ve seen by Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney. Kravitz seemed truly appreciative of the feedback he was getting from the audience. His voice and band were excellent.

He sang his big hits including, “It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over”, “Are You Gonna Go My Way”, “Fly Away” — and ended with “Let Love Rule”. One thing he did that I thought was really cool is he walked through the crowd while he was singing. If you ever wanted to see Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, Mick Jagger, Steven Tyler or Bill Withers, go see Lenny Kravitz. He has a great voice, a great attitude and as the kids, “he was looking fly.”