Chicago at 50 and The Doobie Brothers keep on rockin’ down the highway (and the lakefront)

Photos by Andy Argyrakis

The co-headlining tradition continued for Chicago and The Doobie Brothers at yet another sold out stop at Huntington Bank Pavilion At Northerly Island, though rather than the collaborative finale that’s become customary, both acts performed entirely on their own. Apart from that slight disappointment, it was hard to complain as both bands poured their hearts into every second on stage, while unloading so many smashes and periodic vinyl cuts it was impossible to keep count.

Even with five decades under its legendary logo, recent Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Chicago sounded completely revitalized and have an entirely fresh visual production with synchronized screens that’s finally caught up the times.

The hometown heroes fittingly took the closing slot as part of their 50th anniversary celebration, but rather than capitalizing on the hype that could easily surround such an occasion, members were fairly nonchalant other than a casual mention, some logos on their instruments and a few merchandise items. However, Chicago did flesh out their portion of the evening to an extremely fulfilling 125 minutes, incorporating several jazzy jams and surprises (“Questions 67 & 68,” both parts of “Dialogue,” “Wake Up Sunshine,” “Mongonucleosis”) before returning to business as usual for the more commercially-minded but no less satisfying second half (“Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?,” “You’re The Inspiration,” “Hard To Say I’m Sorry,” “Saturday In The Park”).

Even with five decades under its legendary logo, the recent Rock and Roll Hall of Famers sounded completely revitalized and have an entirely fresh visual production with synchronized screens that’s finally caught up the times. Then again, the Chicago of 1967 is a much different band than the Chicago of 2017, which outside of co-founders Robert Lamm (keyboards/vocals), Lee Loughnane (trumpet) and James Pankow (trombone), featured several younger faces, including bassist/singer Jeff Coffey (who took over for Peter Cetera’s replacement Jason Scheff last year and is truly an ideal match).

Despite the retrospective being a bit short-sighted by completely ignoring the ‘90s through now, merely touching on the ‘80s and hyper-focusing on everything that came before was the most worthwhile decision when it came to allowing all the musicians to flex their soloing chops and also partake in the mutual groove. That was never more apparent than an encore that placed “Free” alongside “24 Or 6 To 4,” both of which seared with an aggressive spark that hasn’t been this potent in Chicago since at least the last major milestone.

The Doobie Brothers also came out with their guns blazing, wasting no time sinking straight into “Jesus Is Just Alright,” “Rockin’ Down The Highway” and “Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me A Little While).” The members have changed multiple times as well over the years, but the core comprised of original vocalists/guitarists Tom Johnston and Patrick Simmons, plus long-time guitarist John McFee and the rest of the top-notch cast also offered a completely legitimate continuation of this rich legacy.

Without Michael McDonald in the full-time fold, the soulful side of their catalogue may have been missing (most glaringly, “What A Fool Believes”), but The Doobies took the extra room in the 75-minute set to revisit less traveled roads such as “Dark Eyed Cajun Woman,” “Spirit,” “Sweet Maxine” and “The Doctor.” Of course “Black Water” appeared (with its geography being cheekily changed from Mississippi to Illinois), though it was the super-stacked “Long Train Runnin’” and “China Grove” combination that best spoke to the delightfully dirty southern spirit of a group that’s thrived almost as long as its pals from the Windy City.

For additional information on Chicago and The Doobie Brothers, visit and

Upcoming concert highlights at Huntington Bank Pavilion At Northerly Island include Straight No Chaser and Post Modern Jukebox (Jul. 13); Phish (Jul. 14, 15 and 16); Umphrey’s McGee (Jul. 21); V103 Summer Block Party starring Jill Scott, BBD, Nelly & Kelly and SWV (Jul 22); Violent Femmes and Echo & The Bunnymen (Jul. 23); Goo Goo Dolls with Philip Phillips (Jul. 24); Fat Tire presents Tour De Fat with The Roots (Jul. 29) and Kidz Bop (Jul. 30). For additional details, visit