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The Doobie Brothers and Chicago: Wantagh, NY, August 18, 2012

The Doobie Brothers and Chicago: Wantagh, NY, August 18, 2012
Mike Perciaccante By

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The Doobie Brothers and Chicago
Nikon At Jones Beach Theater
Wantagh, NY
August 18, 2012
On what will most probably be remembered as one of the best weather days to grace Long Island during the summer of 2012, classic rock legends The Doobie Brothers and Chicago shared the stage at the Nikon at Jones Beach Theatre. The performance had been billed as an evening featuring the music that spanned the careers of both bands, and the members of these iconic groups did not disappoint.
The Doobie Brothers evolved from a short-lived California band called Pud. In 1969, after Pud disbanded, guitarist/vocalist Tom Johnston began jamming with guitarist Patrick Simmons. When they decided to form a group they chose the name The Doobie Brothers coined from the slang term for marijuana. By 1970, the Doobies was signed to Warner Brothers Records. Since that time, the group has featured a staggering number of official members and an even larger number of unofficial members. What has remained constant is the band's sound: a mix of rock, pop, country, funk, jazz, gospel, blues, R&B and a swamp-pop boogie groove that grabs the fan and doesn't let go. The Doobie Brothers has sold well over 40 million albums worldwide, won numerous Grammy Awards, has released a total of 16 studio and live albums as well as numerous "Best Of" collections. There have been multiple RIAA Gold and Platinum sales awards and the group has performed around the world for more than 35 million fans.
Chicago is the big (nine current members) band that could. According to its website, its career highlights include record sales of over 100,000,000, with 21 Top-10 singles, five consecutive number one albums, eleven number one singles and five gold singles. 25 of its 32 albums have been certified Platinum, and the band has a total of 47 Gold and Platinum awards. Chicago is the first American rock band to chart Top-40 albums in five decades. In Billboard Magazine's list of Top 100 artists of all time, Chicago came in at #13, the highest charting American band. Additionally, the group has received many industry and civic accolades including a Grammy Award, American Music Awards, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a Chicago (Illinois) street was dedicated in the group's honor, and the keys to and proclamations from many cities across the United States.

Clearly, both bands are of the same era-their biggest hits came during the '70s and '80s. The crowd, whose members spanned generations-it was readily apparent that the ages of the audience members ranged from teenaged to well-past retirement age-bopped and danced their way through both performances. This multigenerational audience knew the music of both bands, as evidenced by the number of them who sang the lyrics as each song was played.

The Doobie Brothers began the evening in a rather low-key manner. Without any introduction and without notice, guitarists Johnston, Simmons, longtime member, multi-instrumentalist John McFee and the rest of the band (bassist John Cowan, keyboardist Guy Allison, saxophonist Marc Russo, and dueling drummers Ed Toth and Tony Pia) suddenly appeared onstage and launched into "Jesus is Just Alright," one of the group's earliest hits. The Doobies followed this up with a rousing performance of "Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me A Little While)," from Stampede (Warner Brothers, 1975).

The interaction between band members and the crowd was the key to The Doobies' extraordinary set. Tom Johnston spoke to the audience as one would to a friend. He announced, in his laidback California drawl, that the band would "be doing a little old and a little new. Now from the album The Captain and Me (Warner Brothers, 1973), we'd like to do 'Clear As The Driven Snow'-let's hear it for Patrick Simmons." Simmons then moved toward center stage to sing the romantic ballad, while accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. Soon the tempo changed and the song transformed into a real rocker highlighted by Johnston's jaw-dropping guitar solo.

The set was truly career-spanning, as the group played tracks from its classic catalogue as well as newer songs from its 2010 studio album, World Gone Crazy (HOR Records). "A Brighter Day," with its reggae-influenced beat, was introduced as being "about Jamaica and kind of funky." The title song from the album was also played. Johnston introduced it as "a song about New Orleans."

The performance of "Black Water," with its familiar acoustic guitar and violin intro, was truly special. Simmons' vocals were spot-on. McFee's violin was outstanding and the band's harmonies were tight. The Doobies also personalized the song for the enthusiastic audience-a large whooping cheer accompanied the altered lyric when "Mississippi moon..." was changed to "New York moon keep shining on me."

The Doobie Brothers set was peppered with hits as well as deep cuts from its canon, all performed while Johnston worked the audience while singing, playing, gesturing, and stalking each and every inch of the stage. "Long Train Runnin'" was intermingled with "Slat Key Soquel Rag," "South City Midnight Lady" and the Sonny Boy Williamson cover, "Don't Start Me Talkin.'"



As the show neared the end, the excitement in the crowd was at a fever pitch. Though it didn't seem possible, the opening riff of "China Grove" pushed the crowd further on the road to delirium. During the song's barn-burning performance, all three guitarists stood, shoulder-to-shoulder, playing as if their lives depended upon it. By the end of the song the entire audience was on its feet. While the audience was still cheering the band wasted little time by tearing into "Without You." The song featured a perfect vocal by Johnston, with fantastic harmonies supplied by the rest of the band. The highlight of "Without You" was the mugging to the crowd and synchronized dancing/juking of Cowan, Simmons, Johnston and McFee. The frenzied audience erupted into raucous applause as Johnston tossed his pick into the audience and the band left the stage.

After a fifteen minute intermission, Chicago took the stage, featuring founding members Robert Lamm (keyboards/guitar/vocals), James Pankow (trombone), and Walt Parazaider (saxophone), along with bassist Jason Scheff, drummer Tris Imboden, guitarist Keith Howland, keyboardist Lou Pardini and percussionist Walfredo Reyes. Chicago's trumpeter, Lee Loughnane (another founding member), had a family matter to attend to, and was wonderfully and skillfully replaced by first-call trumpeter Lee Thornburg. Thornburg-a founding member of Jack Mack and the Heart Attack who also played in The Tonight Show band from 2001 through 2006, and has been a member of both Supertramp and Tower of Power-has performed with the Chicago numerous times over the years.

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