Chicago’s concert in Bangkok last Friday was a great and grand performance, not only because it was part of the world-famous band’s final world tour, but it was their storied career, top musical proficiency throughout their 45-year journey that mattered, and made the night memorable.
Despite decades in the limelight coupled with award-winning and chart-topping hits, Chicago cast their nobleness through an onstage statement, humbly lauding the fans for their support and thanking them for attending the concert, as put by trombonist James Pankow during a break.
“[Chicago’s fame] is not so much about the people onstage. It’s the music that has been gone way beyond our wildest dreams. We’ve been doing this for so many years and we are so lucky that you keep coming back to see us. We all thank you for that,” said Pankow, now 65 and seemingly the most playful member, drawing loud cheers and long applause.
Quite apart from all the quality and credentials, the 5,000-strong crowd at Muang Thong Thani’s Challenger 1 hall was simply impressed by the 18 hits and medleys in the two-hour show, including the award-winning classics, “If You Leave Me Now” and “Hard to Say I’m Sorry”, both of which hit No 1. There was also “Hard Habit to Break”, “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” and “You’re the Inspiration”.
The nine-member line-up featured three originals who formed the band in 1967 – Pankow, keyboardist Robert Lamm and trumpeter Lee Loughnane. Santana’s drummer, Walfredo Reyes Jr, is the guest percussionist on the farewell tour.
Chicago’s earlier recruits are singer-bassist Jason Scheff, who replaced founding member Peter Cetetra in 1985 and perfectly matched Cetera’s high-pitched voice; guitarist Keith Howland; keyboardist Lou Pardini; saxophonist Walt Parazaider; and drummer Tris Imbodon. Lamm, Howland, Pardini and Scheff handled most of the vocals but all three brass players kept pace as the chorus.
The audience was mostly of the same age as the Chicago guys and made little noise during the show, only waving their hands at the band’s encouragement during “If You Leave Me Now”. Younger people in the crowd danced along to high-tempo “Street Player” and were joined by many others later during “Saturday in the Park”.
The final three songs got more people on their feet – and rushing to the stage – “Hard to Say I’m Sorry”, followed as usual with the instrumental “Get Away”, and “Feelin’ Stronger Every Day”. There was a short break before the encore of “Free” and “25 or 6 to 4”.
On hand to see them in Bangkok were veteran Thai musicians and composers, including Setha Sirachaya and Winai Phanthurak, formerly of the Impossibles, Sarayuth Supanyo of Infinity, and songwriter Boyd Kosiyapong. Boyd told The Nation he was there “as a non-composer”, just looking forward to hearing the many hits by Chicago, who he started following at a young age.