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Concert Reviews:
Chicago, Doobie Brothers rekindle memories at DTE

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

Posted: Monday, July 17, 2017

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INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- Pine Knob past and DTE Energy Music Theatre present merged on Sunday night, June 16, as Chicago and the Doobie Brothers settled into the amphitheater for the umpteenth time each.

Both classic rock bands are veterans of many visits -- 48 in Chicago’s case, according to keyboardist Robert Lamm -- and quite a few multi-night stands. Together on Sunday they made the years melt away, playing nearly two dozen Top 20 hits between them, mostly from the 70s and 80s, along with plenty of enduring deep-cut album favorites. The only thing the two groups didn’t do was reprise the collaborations from their previous tour together, missing a chance to co-mingle and stir the collective musical pot together. Several Doobies songs especially would have benefitted from the addition of Chicago’s horn section.

Then again, going their respective ways may have been appropriate this year for Chicago. Celebrating the 50th anniversary of its formation, the nine-piece group -- with three founding members on stage Sunday -- was able to play more than two hours and embrace all the key points of its career over 29 songs, from early brass-rock excursions such as “Introduction,” “Question 67 & 68,” “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” and “Ballet For a Girl In Buchannon suite to 80s pop hits like “Hard Habit To Break,” “You’re the Inspiration” and “Hard To Say I’m Sorry.”

Regardless of your preferred era, Chicago’s musicianship was as stellar as it’s ever been, with “new guy” bassist Jeff Coffey, who joined last year, ably recreating Peter Cetera’s high vocal leads and guitarist Keith Howland and drum Tris Imboden laying on a non-stop display of playing chops throughout the show; Imboden’s percussion duo spot with Walfredo Reyes Jr. was particularly nimble and adventurous, a far cry from the rote drum solos that populate most rock shows.

Chicago’s vibe was gracious and grateful on Sunday, with Lamm -- recently inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame along with Cetera and trombonist James Pankow -- telling the DTE crowd “we always feel more love here than in most places.” The group returned the affection with memorable renditions of “Old Days,” “Street Player,” “Free” and the instrumental “Mongonucleosis,” though it copped out on “Feelin’ Stronger Every Day” by playing only the fast ending part rather than the full song. Nevertheless, it was clear that the nearly full house was fully on board for what Lamm called “the next 50 years” of Chicago.

The Doobie Brothers, meanwhile, opened the night with a no-nonsense 75 minutes of mostly hits, though the 15-song set included some deeper catalog digs in the form of “Spirit,” “Sweet Maxine,” and “Clear As The Driven Snow. Fresh back from playing the Classic West concert with the reunited Eagles on Saturday night, July 15, in Los Angeles, the Doobies’ three-guitar attack was bolstered by keyboardist Bill Payne, late of Little Feat, and saxophonist Marc Russo, whose added parts put a fresh coat of musical paint on “older favorites such as “Eyes Of Silver” and “Long Train Runnin’.” The 15 songs sounded as fresh Sunday as they did four decades ago, which made it only too easy to, er, “Listen To The Music” all night long at DTE.

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