13th Aug2015

“Unity” Brings together Michael Jackson’s Legacy at Ravinia

by rockchicago


What do you get when you combine outrageously danceable music, audience members of all backgrounds, and one of Chicagoland’s most prestigious concert venues? You get Unity, a Michael Jackson tribute band with a Latin twist, and their performance at Highland Park’s Ravinia Festival on July 19th. The group is the brainchild of Tony Succar, who was born in Peru but raised in Miami, and he has amassed a powerhouse group of instrumentalists and singers to pay homage to the late entertainer.

Unity is much more than just a cover band; it’s a cultural experience. Their Latin arrangements of Jackson’s most famous songs range from the lighthearted, party-feel “I Want You Back”, to a romantic “Todo Mi Amor Eres Tu”, to a somber yet gleaming “Earth Song”. One standout performance was their cover of “They Don’t Really Care About Us”. This 8-minute gut-buster featured Kevin Ceballo on vocals and Succar himself on the cajón, a Peruvian percussion instrument.  The song began with Succar soloing astride the box-shaped drum, mercilessly demonstrating the variety and intensity his instrument provides. Then, little by little, the band added new sounds and voices to the mix, just like the song’s message of gathering frustration rumbles increasingly louder.

I cannot stress enough the incredible talent displayed in this band. The singers and instrumentalists stood 20 strong, and every combination thereof breathed new life into Jackson’s classics. Each took pride in his or her unique background, asking the audience where their fellow Puerto Ricans, Peruvians, and Colombians sat in the crowd. (One keyboardist even hailed from Finland!) But they came together as a team to throw one heck of a party that combined pop royalty with rich ethnic heritage and tradition.

The only thing marring this fantastically fun evening was the lack of turnout. Though a fair number of picnickers listened on the lawn, the pavilion was less than one-quarter full. What a shame that Ravinia failed to support a positive, fresh performance with the potential to bring new patrons through their gates. However, those that attended Salsa’d, Samba’d, and swayed the night away. Michael Jackson’s message of cooperation and love rang truer than ever. “It don’t matter if you’re Black or White” – or Hispanic; everyone would enjoy Unity’s passion and skill. I hope they find success in Chicagoland and beyond.

Reviewed by Katherine Damisch

12th Sep2014

The 80′s Are Welcomed Back to Ravinia with The Retro Futura Tour

by rockchicago


Wednesday night  8/27 at Ravinia Festival  was the perfect night, and perfect weather for a lively crowd of 80’s music enthusiasts who were in for a real treat.  First to hit the stage was Canadian Singer Katrina Leskanich  from the 80’s group Katrina and the Waves who started the show that night with a very energetic set of tunes including her encore,  the one huge hit for her band back in 1985 Walking on Sunshine which whipped the crowd into a frenzy.   Katrina sounded great with this house band of very talented musicians who stayed on the stage for the most part to accompany each set of performers.

The Next act to immediately follow was none other than the synth-pop band from Kirkby England China Crisis who I personally was very excited to see being a huge fan of theirs since the first time hearing them in 1985.  Led by Lead vocalist and songwriter Gary Daly and Guitarist Eddie Lundon the two opened their set with Arizona Sky, a lovely gem from their  What Price Paradise release(1986).  They followed with one of their early efforts  African & White from  the bands’ debut release  Difficult Shapes & Passive Rhythms, Some People Think It’s Fun to Entertain(1982).  The two were sounding great, Daly’s voice was a bit hoarse but nevertheless  belting out such hits as Wishful Thinking from their 1983 release  Working with Fire and Steel: Possible Pop Songs Volume Two.  Then towards the end of the set we heard   Black Man Ray, and King In A Catholic Style(Wake Up) from their 1985 release Flaunt the Imperfection, which was the bands first collaboration with Steely Dan’s Walter Becker, who produced  and was also credited as a member of the band on this record.   Those two songs made a China Crisis fan like me very happy  indeed.

Midge Ure from the band Ultravox was up next, and strapped with a beautiful Les Paul guitar  sang some of Ultravox’s great tunes he recorded with them since first Joining the band in 1979. Songs  like Vienna, and Dancing with Tears in My Eyes got the audience going, and those who were fans of this very talented band were thoroughly entertained by Ure’s killer vocals very reminiscent of A Bryan Ferry Roxy Music glam type vibe. A Very enjoyable and high energy set  to take the show to its mid-way point and then the shows Intermission.

Back from Intermission the crowd was getting antsy and very excited as Howard Jones took the stage  along with one additional drummer/percussionist to accompany  he and his Keytar and keyboard/Piano setup.   A fantastic intro and right into one of my personal favorite songs by Jones, Like to Get to Know You Well from his 1985 classic release Dream Into Action got the crowd Pumped and up on their feet dancing their asses off.   Jones sounded pitch perfect, and was full of energy as he stuck to a lot of his early hits both from Human’s Lib(1984) and Dream Into Action(1985).  Songs like New Song, and What Is Love,  two of the songs that with the help of MTV back in 1984 put Howard Jones on the 80’s map of artists to watch out for.  Along with hits like Things Can only Get Better and bringing it down to the super slow, beautiful No One is to Blame also from Dream Into Action, Jones did not disappoint as the crowd danced and sang along to every word of these hits.  They just kept coming with a more recent hit, Everlasting Love, from Cross That Line(1989) which got the entire place on their feet , Jones even mixed it in with a very more modern Dub-step sort of beat that really got the audience pumped.  Further proof that Jones is still relevant and can and continuous sing-a long style accompaniment from the very happy audience.   A Great set closer for Jones.  He’s still got it.

The final performer, and frontman of the seminal Thompson Twins, Tom Bailey was welcomed to the stage by a very enthusiastic crowd.  It was interesting looking around the pavillion that night noticing how many 30s-40s ish looking  men there were  there who were totally into these tunes.  By All of these groups, and performers.  Proving that yes, this music from the 80’s is still incredible and relevant, and we  “old men” can still appreciate it AND dance to it.   I myself first heard and picked up my 1st Thompson Twins Cassette(Side Kicks it was released as in USA & Japan, but Quick Step And Side Kick in the UK)  in the summer of 83 in Edinburgh, Scotland.  I still have it to this day and it still gets good play in my cars cassette deck as well.   Bailey and his accompanying keyboardists and drummer played Hit after hit pretty much going chronologically from their first single, recorded in 1982, and recognizable from the Ghostbusters soundtrack  In the Name of Love was a perfect song to start the set.  The Thompson Twins  had a great run in the 80’s and early 90’s releasing  8 records in that time, the last record being released 1991, but Bailey focused on the years 1983-1985 for this set of hits.  And as a HUGE Thompson Twins fan myself, this was a great trip down memory lane hearing  those hits like Lies, Love on Your Side, We Are Detective, and If You Were Here  which Bailey of course played to a very eager audience.   In fact,  If you were here had to have brought tears, and big floods of memories  to those in the audience who were fans, or who knows, maybe had done some extra work when they were teenagers on the John Hughes film Sixteen Candles,  shot entirely in the North shore, not far from where we were now watching Tom Bailey, sing that lovely song from that movie’s soundtrack.    Into the Gap(1984) the album right after Quick Step featured even more hits   This was their big record..  which bailey of course gave precious attention to..hits like You Take Me Up, Sister of Mercy, Doctor Doctor!, and of course their monster hit Hold Me Now sounded just as good as they did in 1984.   I sincerley hope that Ravinia festival will continue to have more great shows like this spotlighting some of these great 80’s acts who are still out there doing it.  And doing it well!  They usually will have at least one or two, but it would be great to see a whole series of like two weeks worth of these  “retro” shows to spotlight how relevant and timeless this music really is.

Reviewed by John Gray

12th Sep2014

Train Keeps-A-Rollin’ at Ravinia Festival

by rockchicago


Let the train keep on rolling as they say…another beautiful night at Ravinia Festival tonight, as a sold-out crowd scatters into the pavilion to experience Train! As I mentioned, it was a packed house, and we were all waiting for Pat Monahan’s unpredictable voice to soar.

As the band entered the stage, they went right into their song “Parachute,” which was a song I didn’t know, but it was really upbeat and the audience seemed to love it. Next they went into one of their hits “Calling All Angels.” The crowd was getting into it even more. As the night progressed, the audience was on their feet for most of the show and Monahan was just soaking it all in.

Throughout the night, Monahan was very interactive with the audience by taking “selfie” pictures on people’s phones in the front row. At one point he was even throwing out free T-shirts to the audience. He even took off his own shirt, had the entire band sign it, then threw it into the crowd.

Some of the crowd favorites that night included a lot of their well-known hits including “Save Me, San Francisco,” “Meet Virginia,” “When I Look to the Sky,” “Hey, Soul Sister” and “Drops of Jupiter.” They even performed 2 kick-ass covers, Led Zeppelin’s “What Is and What Should Never Be” and the very last encore of the night, Aerosmith’s “Dream On.” The covers were honestly my favorites of the night not only because they nailed them but Monahan’s voice was just superb!

Train really knows how to put on a show for its fans and it showed on night 1 of their 2-day residency at Ravinia Festival. I only hope night 2 was just as good as night 1. I would highly recommend seeing Train live if they come to a city near you. Ravinia was a perfect venue for them as usual. The only thing I was kind of hesitant with was the new material from Train. One thing that aggrivates me about bands always coming out with new material, is they tend to switch styles. I only wish Train could have stuck to the same style they originally came out with. But that’s only my opinion.

Overall, definitely worth it, and I would see them again anytime.

Reviewed by Kevin Pollack

09th Jul2014

Sarah McLachlan Brings Her Living Room to Ravinia

by rockchicago


I could not think of a better way to spend the 4th of July weekend other than at Ravinia on a beautiful breezy summer evening. It was especially a real treat to see one of my favorite singer/songwriters, Sarah McLachlan, performing with her band on her Shine On Tour. What a lady!

First, let me introduce the set. A simple, yet elegant mock of a spacious and artsy looking living room (her living room). On the ceiling hung three large circular objects with lights around the rims that symbolized chandeliers. They, along with other hanging light fixtures, lit up and created an awesome looking light show. Occasionally on certain songs, there were 3 large screens that served as a wall for the stage. There was a purple couch on the side of the stage with a coffee table facing the band, and there were white string lights hanging that helped create a soft lamplight effect.

Sarah walked on stage along with her band, as humble as ever, wearing a shiny silver loose top that showed off her toned arms and black pants. She grabbed a guitar, and made a brief introductory speech, and told us what a great city we have (I think artists say that about every city, but this one is true), and how she spent the 4th of July here in Chicago. She mentioned her new album, Shine On, which was just released a couple of months ago, and acknowledged that some people might not know the new songs, so she would intertwine the new with the old ones that everyone was most likely there to hear.

There’s 25 songs on the set list, so I will mention the ones that I particularly enjoyed the most. The first half of the night she sang and played familiar songs such as “Building a Mystery,” the tender “Adia (one of my favorites),” the emotionally powerful ballad that I think everyone can relate to, “Stupid,” and “World on Fire (famously played in commercials).” She would explain the meaning behind her songs which I appreciated. She had a way of talking to her audience as if she was talking to her friends in her living room. Very conversational, and I think that aspect brought us closer to her and her music. “Broken Heart” was a beautiful and moving song with her at the piano. The title is self explanatory, but it basically reflects the events that were going on in her life, and how she moved on from divorce, raising her two kids, and finding another partner.

The second half of the set included a mix of her spine-tingling ballads and soft-rock slightly harder edged songs which were very cool and different from her usual material. She opened up the second set with a song about her father, whom she lost a few years ago, and the lessons he taught her, and how she will reflect that onto her children. Next, she played and sang “I will Remember You,” probably one of her most well known songs in the late 1990s. That was played at my 8th grade graduation, so it definitely brought back memories for me. “Brink of Destruction” is oddly enough a very positive song about how life can bring you down, but you get right back up and move. She talked about how she was used to writing about sad and tragic situations, so her songs were sad and solemn, but her new partner helped and inspired her to take that kind of energy and create something different and more uplifting while still keeping her signature sound. I really loved “Hold On” which was a song for her children, and I think children in general. She went back to her epically tragic and witty form of songwriting with “Sweet Surrender,” and of course, the haunting “Possession,” which was about a stalker.

The encore was much longer than I expected. She began with “Angel,“a slow ballad that became popular as it was played in the City of Angels movie. “Beautiful Girl” was written about her daughters, and I loved it as it was sentimental. She ended the night with “The Sound That Love Makes,” which was a little bit of a jazzier and uplifting piece; perfect for ending an amazing evening of good music and fresh air.

I’d like to mention that the couch on stage not only served as a piece of furniture that completed the living room like set, but select members of the audience who won a certain contest on her website were invited to go sit on it and watch her play a song. She also went up to them, and talked and answered any questions that they had. I thought that was really neat and showed that she is a down to Earth person. Audience members were also allowed to write questions on a piece of paper, which she drew from a hat and answered them. Some were quite funny, and her answers seemed very honest.

I totally enjoyed watching and hearing Sarah, with her signature Celtic-like voice and microphone effects. Her voice, her songwriting, her multi-instrumental abilities, and most of all, her personable, calm and wordly attitude and personality make her a lovely artist and a must see.

Reviewed by Sarah Breidenbach

05th Jul2014

Earth, Wind & Fire Get the Party Started at Ravinia

by rockchicago


It was the start of what was to be a fantastic evening at Ravinia Festival with none other than Earth, Wind & Fire! This is my second time seeing them and I have to tell you, it was definitely worth it! The show wasn’t sold out but it was very close. As the stage was set with lots of video screens, I took my seat.

The band came out and went right into playing some of the hits including “Boogie Wonderland,” and “Sing A Song,” and even played a brand new song off their new album Now and Forever called “My Promise,” which evokes the early sounds of EW&F.

The concert was not just a celebration of their music, the new album and the fans, but it was treated like a big party. Everyone was dancing in their seats and in the aisles. I even caught myself dancing in the aisle as well! EW&F have that sort of sound, where it’ll sound good years later when they play their music. The band was very tight and at the top of their game.

The band included Maurice White (Vocals, Kalimba, Drums, Percussion), Verdine White (Bass), Philip Bailey (Vocals, Conga, Percussion, Kalimba), Ralph Johnson (Drums, Percussion, Vocals), B. David Whitworth (Percussion, Vocals), Greg “G-Mo” Moore (Rhythm Guitar, Vocals), Myron McKinley (Keyboards), Morris O’Connor (Lead Guitar), Kim Johnson (Vocals), Philip Bailey, Jr.- (Vocals), John Paris (Drums), Reggie Young (Trombone), Gary Bias (Saxophone) and Bobby Burns. Jr (Trumpet). An awfully big band, isn’t it? The 3 original members are Maurice White, his brother Verdine White and Philip Bailey.

It was truly amazing seeing all these guys onstage. They were having a lot of fun, interacting with the audience and doing solos galore! Including a great sax solo from Gary Bias. I’ve also got to tell you, Philip Bailey definitely has one of the best voices in music. The notes he was hitting in some songs were ridiculous!

Other songs played that night included “Shining Star,” “After the Love Has Gone,” “Reasons,” “Devotion,” “That’s the Way of the World,” “Serpentine Fire,” “Fantasy,” “September,” “Let’s Groove” and encored with “In the Stone.”

The coolest part of the night was running into film actor Craig Robinson, who was not too far away. You may have seen him in such movies as Hot Tub Time Machine and This is the End. After he was nice enough to take pictures with the crowd, he ended up on stage playing tambourine with the band!

Overall, Earth Wind & Fire knew how to keep the party going. Non-stop energy, lots of talent and a whole lot of fun. I highly recommend everyone out there to go see an Earth, Wind & Fire show because you will not only have a great time, but you’ll want to come back and see them again. I’m glad I came back and saw them again this year, having seen them last year. The only difference this year is they stepped it up a notch.

Reviewed by Kevin Pollack

28th Jun2014

Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour Spreads the Magic and the Music to Sears Centre

by rockchicago


Anybody that is a Michael Jackson fan, you would’ve seen tonight at Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour, which was an amazing spectacle that you have to see to believe. Cirque du Soleil gets into the imagination of Michael Jackson and brings it alive on stage. The show was at the Sears Centre Arena which is not my favorite venue. First and foremost, it’s too big of a place for a show like this and the sound quality is not great there at all. For this show, the sound was great, but could’ve been louder.

 Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour is a once-in-a-lifetime electrifying production that combines Michael Jackson’s music and choreography with Cirque du Soleil creativity to give fans worldwide a unique view into the spirit, passion and heart of the artistic genius who forever transformed global pop culture. The show is written and directed by Jamie King, the leading concert director in pop music today, and features 49 international dancers, musicians and acrobats.

A riveting fusion of visuals, dance and music that immerses audiences in Michael’s creative world, Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour unfolds Michael Jackson’s artistry before the eyes of the audience. Aimed at lifelong fans as well as those experiencing Michael’s creative genius for the first time, the show captures the essence, soul and inspiration of the King of Pop, celebrating a legacy that continues to transcend generations. The show also features a top-notch band including alumni who have played with Michael Jackson on tour. His band included: Don Boyette (band leader and bass guitar), Charles “Charlie” Wilson (keyboards), Jonathan “Sugarfoot” Moffett (drums), Jon Myron Clark (guitar), Bashiri Johnson (percussion), Desiree Bassett (guitar), Michael Ghegan (saxophone), Ravi Hassan Best (trumpet), Mariko (cello) and Jason Woods and jMarie (vocals). All the musicians were top-notch!

The show opens with “Working Day and Night” with five super fans praising the King of Pop with a giant mural of Michael Jackson. It was actually a very cool scene in which the fans (hip-hop dancers), jumped onto the screen and it was very 3D-like. The song then segued into one of my favorite MJ songs “Childhood,” in which the Mime (Jonathan Bayani) awakens the bronze statues guarding the gates of Neverland. As the gates open, we are introduced to the IMMORTAL band while dancers and acrobats in tribal costumes danced and moved to “Wanna Be Starting Something.” The energy stayed active as the next scene transitioned into an ironworks factory (almost reminded me of MJ in the sweat shop scene in the film The Wiz) for “Dancing Machine.” Each of the dancers in this sequence dance on different “dancing machines.” It was very cool to see the different machines they were dancing on because each performer performed a different dance style.

As we move forward, it quiets down as we hear “Ben” to a video of MJ with a bunch of animals on the screen. We then see Bubble the Monkey, MJ’s faithful companion. As the song concludes, we go into a very cool part of the show that blends 3 of MJ’s songs together as part of a “Murder Ballad-like” trio of songs. It started with “This Place Hotel,” one of my personal favorites, where the dancers were performing in the air. It then shifts into the famous “Smooth Criminal,” where gangsters are hanging on lamp posts reading newspapers. The coolest part was watching the dancers re-enact the choreography from the video including the famous leaning motion! As it segues into the third song “Dangerous,” we see the gangsters surrounding center stage as an acrobat performs a very cool pole dancing act. The 3 songs really did mesh together well as sort of alike a mini movie, which MJ was famous for.

In the famous Cirque du Soleil etiquette, the Mime, who is like a leader/narrator (without speaking of course), feels himself transforming more and more into MJ to the song “Another Part of Me.” When he feels the “magic,” we disappear into the darkness where a 3D version of the Neverland logo appear on the wall (Michael as a boy sitting on a crescent of a moon), and aerialists appear representing the constellations to a moonlit sky wearing multicolored LED costumes as they were soaring through the air to “Human Nature.” It was honestly the coolest and most magical numbers in the show. As the scene fades to black, a book appears in the middle of the stage. As it opens, we see the nightmares coming alive as MJ sings “Is It Scary.” A contortionist comes out of the Book of Tales and contorts every which way, turning the pages. As we get deeper into the story, it stays in scary-mode as we transition into “Thriller,” the final number of the first act. MJ’s original choreography is re-imagined as a bunch of mummies hit the stage to perform the ghoulish dancing.

As we start the second act to the story, we see an aerialist performing on white silk, like swans to MJ dueting with jMarie on a beautiful rendition of “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You.” As it fades to black, the scene re-awakens with a giant pair of MJ’s signature penny loafers and a giant glittery glove coming to life onstage for “Beat It.” It was so cool to see them come alive. In the end, an electric cello and electric guitar get into a battle, which is cool for any rock fan. The clash theme continues with “Jam,” in which a group of basketball players perform some hip-hop choreography. The act was inspired by MJ’s original music video with Michael Jordan.

As the show progressed, it gets out of story-mode a little bit just performing scenes. We continue with the Mime coming out of center stage with an earth-like ball as MJ’s “Earth Song” blasts through the arena. This a very powerful song with a very powerful message and truly a highlight of the night. The next scene involved acrobats performing a tumbling act, while aerial dancers are performing ninja-like choreography to “Scream.” Both “Scream” and “Earth Song” are about the end of the world, so it made perfect sense to blend the two.

For the next number, “They Don’t Care About Us,” dancers dressed like soldiers wearing robot suits with LED breastplates light up to perform choreography in unison. This number is a reenactment of the number that was designed for the THIS IS IT concert tour the way MJ wanted it to be. At the end of the number, as the soldiers’ breastplates begin to glow, dancers come down from the audience onto the stage holding red glowing hearts for “Will You Be There.” It was one of the most heart-wrenching songs in the show. It then fades into just a video of MJ on a scrim on the stage to the song “I’ll Be There.”

The story slowly comes to an end for the Mega Mix, which included all kinds of dance going on for “Can You Feel It” and “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough.” During “Billie Jean,” the whole place went dark as the dancers lit up with LED costumes and changed colors dancing to MJ’s signature choreography. One of the best moments of the show. As the mega mix finale closes out to “Black or White,” the dancers run from all corners of the audience to the stage with flags in a tribute to the nations and dance styles of the world, including African, Spanish, Thai and Georgian dances. The show’s finale is “Man in the Mirror” as the performers take their bows and close the Book of Tales by MJ.

This show really represented Michael Jackson’s imagination, dreams and feelings into a heartfelt show with Cirque du Soleil. The audience really reacted to the performers and to MJ with people screaming “We love you Michael” from time to time. IT was almost as if MJ was really there but he wasn’t. This show is no more or less a celebration of his life & legacy, and you can see that beautifully on stage.

For more information, visit www.cirquedusoleil.com/michaeljackson

Reviewed by Kevin Pollack

28th Jun2014

James Taylor “Showers the People” with Love at Ravinia Festival

by rockchicago


Oh, what a beautiful evening it is. Night 1 of James Taylor’s sold out 2-night residency at Ravinia Festival, and what madness! As everyone rushed to take their seats, you know the band is just about to take the stage!

The first person you see is James Taylor greeting the crowd walking back and forth saying hi to the audience. Then he walked center stage, picked up his acoustic and went right into a beautiful rendition of “Something in the Way She Moves.” Song after song, you can tell Taylor just loves playing and he loved playing with his band as well. Taylor’s All-Star band included legendary drummer Steve Gadd (Steely Dan, Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney), percussionist Luis Conte (Phil Collins, Madonna, Pat Metheny Group), Jimmy Johnson (a member of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section) on bass, Larry Goldings (Ray Charles, Norah Jones, Herbie Hancock) on keyboards, Michael Landau (Pink Floyd, Michael Jackson, Steve Perry, Seal, Richard Marx) on guitar, Lou Marini (The Blues Brothers Band, Frank Zappa, Steely Dan, Blood, Sweat & Tears) on horns, Walt Fowler (Frank Zappa) on horns and keyboards, Andrea Zonn (Alison Krauss, Amy Grant, Lyle Lovett, Neil Diamond) on backing vocals and violin, Arnold McCuller (Phil Collins, Bonnie Raitt, Todd Rundgren, Carole King) on backing vocals, Kate Markowitz (Billy Joel, Diana Ross, Kenny Loggins, Neil Diamond) on backing vocals and songwriter David Lasley (Luther Vandross, Linda Ronstadt, Bonnie Raitt, Bette Midler) on backing vocals. How about that for an all-star band!!!

Taylor’s set list included a lot of his hits including “Everyday (Buddy Holly cover),” “Country Road,” “Carolina in My Mind,” “Sweet Baby James,” “You’ve Got A Friend,” “You and I,” “Handy Man,” “You Are My Only One,” a beautiful acoustic rendition of “Fire and Rain,” “Up on the Roof,” “Mexico,” and “Your Smiling Face” among others. He performed a 2 and a half hour set with 3 encores including “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You),” “Shower the People” and “Lassie Will You Go.”

Taylor also premiered new songs like the great “Today, Today, Today” and the bluesy “One More Go Round,” which makes you want to go out and buy the new album already. Throughout the show, Taylor was talking to the audience like he’s talking to his friends, telling stories of being on the road, working with Carole King, and how much he loved The Beatles. You can tell he was comfortable on stage and comfortable with the crowd. To prove that, during the 15-minute intermission, he even came out to the front of the stage to sign autographs and take pictures with fans!

The best song of the night by far was “Steamroller.” This is one of Taylor’s early bluesy songs, but it’s one of those songs that you can feel how he feels onstage. Michael Landau killed it on guitar during this song, as he’s able to show off playing the blues. But I have to give it to the rest of the band as well, because not only were they amazing, but you can tell they were having so much fun onstage. Especially the backup singers! At one point at the end of the show, Taylor even brought out his wife and his son to sing backup as well! Another highlight for me was a song Taylor wrote called “Mill Worker” for a musical by theatre composer Stephen Schwartz called Working.

Overall, this was one of the best concerts I’ve seen at Ravinia. Having grown up with James Taylor’s music, it was a real treat to see it live. It was almost like a celebration of some sorts. Hopefully, the people that went the second night will feel the same way I felt this first night!

Reviewed by Kevin Pollack

23rd Jun2014

Daryl Hall & John Oates Are “Back Together Again” at Ravinia Festival

by rockchicago


It was another beautiful but cold night at Ravinia Festival. It’s packed and there’s great music to follow from none other than Daryl Hall & John Oates!! Despite the big drop in temperature and the fog, it was still a great night once again.

This is Hall & Oates’ 4th time playing Ravinia and my 3rd time seeing them. But I must say, out of all the times I’ve seen them, this was the best. The reason I say that is because they dug out some deep cuts this time around which was exciting.

As soon as 7pm hit, the band started walking out onstage. Hall & Oates soon trailed out and they broke into one of their famous hits “Maneater.” Then the show just took off from there. The show only ended up being 90 minutes which I thought was fairly short for them. But they packed as much as they could into those 90 minutes.

The set list for the night included: “You’re Out of Touch,” “I Did It In A Minute,” “Back Together Again,” “Las Vegas Turnaround,” “She’s Gone,” “Sara Smile,” “Do What You Wanna Do,” “Rich Girl,” which was was fun to see all the band members waving neon tambourines! “You Make My Dreams Come True,” “Kiss On My List,” “Private Eyes” and the best song of the night “I Can’t Go For That,” where there was about an 8-minute long sax solo and exchanged singing with the percussionist!

Hall & Oates proved they still have it and were in full voice that night. They were feeding off the crowd and changed some of the arrangements for some of the songs. Like, for instance, at the beginning of “Rich Girl,” Hall was messing around on the keys solo before jumping in with a full band.

The show wasn’t sold out but it looked close, and it seemed like everyone else enjoyed the show. The crowd was on their feet most of the time anyway! The band was outstanding as well. It included Charlie DeChant on sax, keys and vocals, Brian Dunne on drums, Eliot Lewis on keys and vocals, Klyde Jones on bass and vocals, Porter Carroll on percussion and vocals and Shane Theriot on guitars and vocals. Each of them at the top of their class!

Overall it was great show and if you’re a Hall & Oates fan, you might want to check them out on tour at a city near you!

Reviewed by Kevin Pollack

18th Jun2014

John Legend Opens the Ravinia Festival With a Bang!

by rockchicago


It was a beautiful summer night as the Ravinia Festival opens its season with none other than John Legend! It couldn’t have been a more perfect night than tonight, and what a crowd. As it’s the opening show of the Ravinia season, you can imagine how packed the place was, especially since the show was sold out.

For a certain amount you pay, you can get onstage seating which was really cool. Legend was in town for his “All of Me Tour,” in support of his new album Love in the Future. He had a string quartet, a guitarist and a grand piano. It was really beautiful hearing Legend play all of his songs on the piano instead of a full band. The concert was treated as a “living room-like” concert, and really felt like you were just sitting in a living room with him.

Some highlights from his 2-hour long set included “Get Lifted,” “Ordinary People,” “All of Me,” the haunting “Made to Love,” “You & I (Nobody in the World),” “Caught Up,” “Good Morning,” “Maxine” and the beautiful “This Time” plus many more of his hits. One special standout was his gorgeously haunting cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” with just him solo at the piano.

What I really enjoyed about this concert was Legend interacted with the audience a lot in the show, bantering to the couples sitting onstage as well to people in the audience. As I said before, the show was really intimate. Legend told stories behind a lot of his songs, and last but not least, his songs took a turn for the best with new arrangements for the string quartet being added. The sound was lush and pure. Legend’s voice was as silky smooth as you can imagine, and he had no problem singing straight for 2 hours and playing. He treated the show like a living room party, and Ravinia was the perfect place to have it! At first, I was thinking, “Why isn’t this concert at a smaller venue where it would be more intimate?” But with the setup the way it was at Ravinia, they proved why it’s the perfect venue to stage a concert like this, so props to them.

For any John Legend fans out there, the “All of Me Tour” really was incredible. You should definitely check out Legend when he comes to a town near you with this tour. Though, seeing it outdoors really makes it magical, but that’s the magic of Ravinia.

Reviewed by Kevin Pollack

25th Nov2013


by rockchicago


The Holiday Season gets a taste of the Motown Sound as “Mary Wilson’s Holiday Spectacular Featuring Special Guests The Four Topsblows into the Windy City December 23, 2013 – January 5, 2014 at the Harris Theater (205 E. Randolph St.) Presented by Reach Out Entertainment and Starvox Entertainment and Marketing, audiences will be taken on a journey through some of the greatest Motown hits as well as Holiday classics by Mary Wilson, one of the original Supremes and the legendary Four Tops, celebrating 60 years of performing in 2013. Pre-sale tickets ($59.99 – $119.99) go on sale Tuesday, October 22 at 10 a.m. and can be purchased online at Ticketmaster.com with an American Express Card. General Public tickets go on sale Sunday, October 27 and can be purchased at Ticketmaster.com, HarrisTheaterChicago.org, by calling 312.334.7777 or at the Harris Theater Box Office. For more information visit marywilsonandthefourtops.com.

It is a dream to celebrate the Holiday season in Chicago,” said performer Mary Wilson. “To perform with my good friends The Four Tops while singing the great songs that introduced us to world combined with some of my favorite Holiday tunes, is the perfect way to usher in the New Year and celebrate the spirit of the season.”

Mary Wilson’s Holiday Spectacular” stars the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, and Vocal Group Hall of Fame recipient Mary Wilson who will treat audiences to rousing renditions of some of the signature songs that catapulted the Supremes to become the most successful “girl group” in history. Favorites include “Stop In The Name of Love,” “I Hear a Symphony,” “Come See About Me,” “Can’t Hurry Love,” “Back In Your Arms Again,” Someday We’ll Be Together” and many more. Abdul “Duke” Fakir, leading The Four Tops will also bring the music of Motown to life with “Baby I Need Your Lovin’,” “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch),” Reach Out, I’ll Be There,” “Bernadette” and “Ain’t No Woman Like the One I Got” and “In The Still of the Night.” Wilson and The Four Tops will then join together on stage, putting the Motown sound into everyone’s favorite holiday classics including “White Christmas,” “Silent Night,” “Winter Wonderland,” “My Favorite Things” and a special rendition of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” sung by Wilson and Fakir. These living legends bring their soul and passion to the stage, embracing the warmth of the season and welcoming in a new year with memorable songs that are sure to have audiences singing along and embracing the spirit and the sounds of holiday.

We are so thrilled to bring together some of Motown’s living legends and present them to Chicago audiences during the holiday season, said Starvox President Corey Ross.” Both Mary Wilson and the Four Tops have continued to delight audiences for decades and to see them join together on one stage and showcase their incredible talent will be a holiday treat for all.”

Performance Schedule and Ticket Information

Mary Wilson’s Holiday Spectacular Featuring Special Guests The Four Tops:”

Monday, December 23, 2013 – Sunday, January 5, 2014

December 23, 25 – 29, 31 and January 2 – 4 at 8:00 p.m.

December 28 and January 4 – 5 at 3:00 p.m.

December 31 at 10 p.m. (Special New Year’s Eve performance, details TBD)
*no performances December 24 and December 30

Tickets ($59.99 – $119.99) are available online at Ticketmaster.com, by calling
312.334.7777 or in-person at the Harris Theater Box Office (205 E. Randolph St.). Discounted Group Ticket reservations are available for groups of 10 or more at
Grouptix.net or by calling 773-327-3778.