It’s a ramshackle, chat-’n’-tune-up start to Chicago’s full-blooded set at the Capital Centre in Largo, Maryland. Robert Lamm thanks the audience and expresses humble gratitude for playing with the Beach Boys.
In 1975 they were playing an extensive joint stadium tour with the Brothers Wilson (emphatically not a support slot; and the two bands came together for the finale). The Beach Boys remained rock royalty, but Chicago were doing very nicely themselves, with – count ’em – eight gold albums to their name over their six-year tenure to date. In ’75, Chicago VIII was in the charts, Peter Cetera was still playing bass and adding his high-end harmonies, and guitarist Terry Kath – three years away from his tragic fate – was on gritty, soulful form. The songs here reach back to their ‘69 Chicago Transit Authority debut, and if you ever doubted the progressive leanings and jazz-rock mentality that informed their prime-era catalogue, then take another listen to Introduction. There are enough chromatic shifts, modulations and harmonic ideas in James Pankow’s brilliant brass arrangement alone to keep even Sid Smith entertained. West Virginia Fantasies is Zappa-substantial, and many a wedding band will have misjudged Colour My World’s lightly-worn complexity. Lamm’s hippie-friendly banter lightens the mood, other members chip in at the mic, and the tunes – Anyway You Want, Beginnings, Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is – are feelgood, and have an edge absent from their gob-puckeringly sweet latter-day output. Originally released in 2011 and nicely repackaged here, this is a great sounding live album from a band near the peak of their powers, surfing their own wave with confidence.