"Make Me Smile"
"Color My World"
"Now More Than Ever"
"If You Leave Me Now"
"Hard Habit to Break"
"Saturday in the Park"
"Just You 'N' Me"
"Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?"
"Feelin' Stronger Every Day"
"I'm a Man"
"Hard to Say I'm Sorry/Get Away"
"25 or 6 to 4"
To be honest, I really didn't expect to enjoy watching 'Chicago: Live in Concert.' The beloved, primarily soft rock band has been around since 1967, bringing its unique pop music sound to the masses through an eclectic mixture of instruments and styles. Glancing over their discography prior to watching the show, I saw many heart breaking ballads whose melodies instantly flooded my mind with sugary, lovelorn romance. Though certainly catchy and memorable, their many popular hits don't exactly stand among my favorite songs. With all that said, 'Chicago: Live in Concert' really surprised me. Not with its quality per say, as I never really questioned the band's talent, but with how much I actually ended up enjoying the performances. The group blends an engaging level of stage presence, fun chemistry, and a varied, appealing setlist of both soft and more exciting tempos to form a very solid concert outing that should more than please any big fans.
Filmed in 2003 as part of the popular 'Soundstage' series, the band's lineup consists of Robert Lamm, Walt Parazaider, James Pankow, Lee Loughnane, Bill Champlin, Jason Scheff, Tris Imboden, and Keith Kowland. Like most similar concert discs, the musicians jumps right into their first few songs, kicking off a diverse selection of fifteen tracks that includes the likes of "Colour My World," "If You Leave Me Now," "Saturday in the Park," and "Hard to Say I'm Sorry." The shooting style is pretty standard, with numerous angles capturing the band and crowd from several vantage points. The group takes occasional pauses to address the audience and plug various releases, but for the most part the show is strictly business with few detours. A brief intermission comes at the halfway point as we see the band stroll off stage and an exciting encore is bestowed upon the enthusiastic crowd at the close of the concert.
The music itself features the band's trademark mesh of traditional rock instruments and a rousing horn section, providing an interesting clash of styles that end up complementing each other perfectly. The band members all bounce off each other well and manage to stir up a surprisingly exciting atmosphere. In addition to the contrasting instruments and tempos, the group also shares vocal duties, with different musicians singing on different tracks adding even more diversity to their sound. While I was expecting the numerous ballads, I was pleasantly surprised by some of the faster paced, comparatively aggressive songs and there's even a pretty impressive drum solo thrown in. In fact, even a few of the traditionally mellow instruments end up providing some welcomed excitement. Who knew that a flute could sound so rocking? Even more varied and unconventional musical tools are brought on as the show progresses and once the maracas come out, you better watch out, because all bets are off… and did I mention cowbell? Well, prepare yourself for sonic bliss, because you get some cowbell! Sadly though, the legendary instrument's fairly brief appearance only left me wanting more. After all, can anyone ever really get enough?
Believe me, I didn't want to sway my head around in slow rhythmic delight at saccharine love songs like "If You Leave Me Now." I didn't want to move my lips along to the words of "Hard to Say I'm Sorry" (especially since I didn't even know I knew the words). I didn't want to enjoy all the heart tugging melodies and blazing horn solos, but I'll be damned if I didn't! Despite my best efforts at times I enjoyed the hell out of this concert and I'm not ashamed to admit it. With about eighty three minutes of material and a fifteen track setlist of popular ballads and rocking tunes, this is a concert that should appeal to even the most casual Chicago fan. While I'm not exactly rushing out to purchase the band's various "best of" compilations I certainly liked what I heard, and even those who see the group's name and instantly roll their eyes might want to take a listen, as the band's diverse style offers much more than just syrupy love songs… though, it's the syrupy love songs that are currently playing on an endless loop in my mind -- nay, my soul!
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Image brings 'Chicago: Live in Concert' to Blu-ray on a single BD-25 disc that comes housed in a standard keepcase. After some logos and warnings, the disc transitions to a basic menu. The packaging indicates that the concert is region A, B, and C compatible.
The concert is presented in a 1080i/AVC MPEG-4 transfer in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Shot digitally in high definition, the video looks perfectly fine but unimpressive.
The source is clean but there is some very slight artifacting, with minor noise and negligible shimmering. Detail is decent with some angles having a nice, sharp quality. With that said, some shots do offer a rather soft appearance. Colors are nicely saturated and the shifting lighting scheme of the show comes through with occasional pop. Black levels are solid and whites bring nice intensity, though the overall picture does have a predominantly flat quality that lacks substantial dimension.
'Chicago: Live in Concert' has a clean, perfectly acceptable look that is in line with many similar concert discs. The visuals get the job done just fine, but it's clear that the audio is the real focus here.
The show is provided with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track and an uncompressed PCM 2.0 track. Both audio options sound very good, and I was actually pleasantly surprised by the robust and immersive surround sound mix.
Vocals are very crisp and carry a nice, full quality. Separation across the entire soundscape is strong, with discrete music cues hitting individual channels. Surrounds bolster the performances with distinct instruments and lots of audience applause and cheers. Dynamic range is great giving the band's mixture of soft and aggressive styles ample room to breathe with no distortion among the wide gamut of frequencies. The group's bustling horn section and various harmonies form an enveloping wall of sound, and the drum beats provide some welcomed low end kick. Balance is mostly good, but crowd reactions are sometimes mixed too high.
With their varied style and eclectic mix of instruments, Chicago presents an interesting pop sound that's represented strongly on this disc. With solid immersion, separation, and fidelity, this is a great sounding concert release.
Sorry, Chicago fans, Image has decided to show you no love in this barebones only release.
While I still wouldn't call myself a Chicago fan, I really did enjoy a lot of this concert and must admit to humming along with many of the sugary, soft ballads. Video quality is solid and the audio mix is great. Unfortunately, there are no extras, but the quality of the show and technical specs should still please any big or casual fans of the band. Worth a Look.