More than just a studio band, Chicago is a concert fixture

By MIKE CHAIKEN

EDITIONS EDITOR

The number of albums released by the band Chicago exceeds the number of fingers and toes of the normal human being.

The number nearly exceeds the number of digits on two human beings.

But just as the group could be counted on through the decades to offer up new albums for their fans on a consistent basis, they also could be counted on to hit the stage in hometowns across the nation.

In fact, the group—which got its start as Chicago Transit Authority—is the rock and roll equivalent of a perennial flower, blooming each year just as fans needed to hear “Saturday in the Park,” “25 or 6 to 4,” “Wishing You Were Here,” and scads more songs that have dotted the record charts through the years.

Chicago comes to the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasvillel on Sunday as part of the Heart and Soul 3.0 tour with Earth, Wind, & Fire.

Trumpeter Lee Loughnane, one of the founding members of the band in 1967, said touring is par for the course for the band.

“We’ve always done it,” said Loughnane calling from a tour stop in Rochester, N.Y. “We love playing for people.”

Loughane said he enjoys that the group has a musical legacy “people want to come hear year after year.”

Touring for Chicago became even more exciting, said Loughnane, when the group decided to tour as co-headliners with other bands, such as EW&F. (Loughnane said the tradition actually began back in 1975 when they toured with the Beach Boys.) In these shows, each band will take their time slot individually on stage. But they will wrap up the evening both bands taking the stage together and playing as one huge unit.

The energy level with this arrangement is amped up considerably, said Loughnane. “I was going to say it’s like one plus one equals three, but it’s more like one plus one equals four.”

The special quality of the combination of Chicago and EW&F was immediately palpable when they toured together for the first time in 2004. “We knew we had something that was really good,” said Loughanane. During a rehearsal, Loughnane said , “Even the crew was bopping their heads.”

Even there’s more than 20 musicians on stage, said Loughnane, no one tries to step out and be “the star.” Everyone works together as one for the fans, said the trumpeter.

“The musicianship on stage is so good,” said Loughnane, “it really stuns people.”

There’s a lot of good music and there’s a lot of good entertainment with this partnership, said Loughnane, who is joined in Chicago these days by fellow founding members keyboardist/ vocalist Robert Lamm, woodwind player Walter Parazaider and trombonist James Pankow as well as bassist/ vocalist Jason Scheff, drummer Tris Imboden, guitarist/ vocalist Keith Howland, keyboard and vocalist Lou Pardini, and percussionist Walfredo Reyes, Jr.

Although Chicago is on the road, that doesn’t mean they aren’t recording new music, said Loughnane. They bring the necessary equipment so they can keep pulling together music as they go from city to city.

“The last record (‘Now: Chicago XXXVI’) we did on the road,” said Loughnane.

“We’re writing music now,” said Loughnane, although there has been nothing recorded yet. But the equipment is with them when they’re ready. “We can get together in a hotel room or ballroom and record.”

These days, said Loughnane, each member of Chicago contributes to the writing process. Most times, the individual members will come back with an idea—often time pretty well arranged on a computer. This contrasts with the early days when members often came in with just the barebones of an idea, sketched out on a guitar or keyboard.

When Chicago formed in 1967, although brass instruments often appeared on pop recordings, there were few bands that included brass musicians as a member. Brass musicians were more associated with jazz combos or orchestras. In fact, Chicago often was referred to as a “jazz rock” band because brass instruments were so closely associated with “jazz.”

But being in a jazz group was not going to happen for Loughnane in those days before joining Chicago. He said, “I’ve never been much of a jazz player… I liked playing in an ensemble rather than doing solo work.” And playing with the brass players of Chicago fit his creative needs.

Several decades after the group’s first album, “Chicago Transit Authority” (which was released in 1969), Loughnane keeps playing with Chicago. “There’s never been a reason to stop.”

After all, as Loughnane—a true musician’s musician– sees it, “I get paid for practicing.”

Chicago and Earth, Wind & Fire perform at the Mohegan Sun Arena on Sunday, Oct. 23 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $80 and $60.

For more information, go to ChicagoTheBand.com or MoheganSun.com

Chicago comes to the Mohegan Sun Arena on Sunday with Earth, Wind & Fire (photo by David M. Earnisse)

Chicago comes to the Mohegan Sun Arena on Sunday with Earth, Wind & Fire (photo by David M. Earnisse)

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