Learning my lines . . .
. . . discovering what it means to follow Jesus, seeing my story swept up into his . . .

As Time Goes On, I Realize. . . .

Great friends, bad sound, a band I loved during the 1970s, and some overwhelming realizations. . . that’s what last night was all about. Lisa and I ventured down to the local American Music Theater with our friends Duffy and Maggie to see Chicago. And before my young friends join together in mocking laughter, you need to remember some facts: 32 albums. The leading U.S. singles charting group in the 1970s. Over 120 million albums sold worldwide – 22 Gold, 18 Platinum, and 8 Multi-Platinum. Five number 1 albums, and twenty-one top ten hits. Stop your laughing. . .

I had been looking forward to this since, well, when I was in junior high. That’s when my music teacher at Huntingdon Junior High School, Miss Margolis, verbalized some principles of music appreciation before blasting the band’s new song, “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?”, through the Harmon-Kardons that hung on the front wall of the tiered music room. It grabbed me and I was hooked. I spent the better part of the 1970s (high school and college) blasting that stuff on the living room stereo and through the car speakers. But I never got the chance to see them in concert. . . until last night.

Lisa graciously went along in return, I think, for our trip to see U2 last fall in celebration of her birthday. Thanks Lisa.

Now, about last night. They played a non-stop barrage of hits. They even played an old favorite song I had totally forgotten, “Wake Up Sunshine.” The problem with the night was the sound, something that I hope wasn’t the fault of the band. Vocals were difficult to hear. The mix was horrible. Still, it was great to hear the old songs.

During “Color My World” I looked around the room, thinking seriously about how I’d fill in the blanks after the first six words of the song. I’m still processing it. But here’s a sampling of some of the thoughts I had. . .

“As time goes on, I realize. . . .

– that men my age and older should NEVER wear tight pants, or a shirt that’s unbuttoned to the belly button and tied beneath it. Oh, if James Pankow had only stuck to playing his trombone. All three of the guys in the horn section were guilty of wardrobe indiscretions for men their age, but Pankow was definitely guilty in the first degree! It was sort of like going to the beach and seeing guys who shouldn’t be wearing speedos wearing speedos. . . and I’m not sure any guy should ever wear a speedo. Get the picture? Thanks for the visual warning, James. To the rest of you, if you ever see me dressed like that. . . do something.

-when it comes to Chicago fans, I might be one of the youngest. I was 12 or 13 when I started listening to their music. Last night, I was 53. This means that the fans who were 22 to 30 years old back in the day are now 62 to 70 years old. They were out in force last night. This realization hit me hard when a pair of short spinsters that had been sitting to our left excused themselves down our row three songs before the concert ended. As they squeezed through in front of me, I smelled the strong pungent odors of heavily applied old lady perfume that I remember smelling in church during my childhood. The trifecta – older ladies, strong perfume, Chicago – left a strong impression.

-the teenage music fans of the 1970s might have been able to dance back then, but they can’t dance now. Which is why I don’t even dance when I’m alone. It’s too painful to watch. . . even for me.

-that time goes on really fast, that time and gravity are not kind to the human body, and that life on this earth is fleeting. I’m happy for the fact that one day, a new heaven and a new earth will be ushered in, and death, decay and everything else bad will be gone forever. I long for that day of restoration.

Hey, don’t get me wrong. It was a fun night. I enjoyed it. I just have to wonder, where did the years between the first time I heard the band and the first time I saw the band go?!?

One more thing. . . at one point I looked around and chuckled as I imagined what my kids would be saying if they had been there with us. I’m glad they weren’t. I remember thinking the same about my parents and their music. But sweet revenge will come. Thirty years from now they’ll be sitting in the same place listening, clapping, and dancing along to some long-forgotten chart-topper. . . and my grand kids will be laughing their heads off!

Chicago then. . . .

Chicago now. . . in a setting I could never in my wildest dreams begin to imagine. . . or enjoy. . . .

Okay. . . go ahead and laugh!

5 Responses

  1. My pastor and I had a similar conversation yesterday about Chicago. Their appearance (and sound) on American Idol earlier this week was less than stellar. It’s hard to watch the core members of the band, who are in their mid-60’s now, as they play and pretend to still like their old music. I was Chicago fanatic in the ’70’s during my Jr & Sr high years. I even played in a Chicago cover band in high school. I lost interest in them as their music style and personnel changed. Danny Seraphine, the original drummer, has formed an all-star band called California Transit Authority. They play mostly early Chicago tracks, particularly the Terry Kath songs. Their sound is tight and exciting. They have a CD and several concert videos on YouTube.

  2. That’s funny – I heard Seraphine and his band play a couple of years ago. They had the front man from Tower of Power singing lead vocals on the day I saw them.

  3. 25 or 6 to 4 ROCKED. And that free form stuff was amazingly complex…

    Color My World? Learned it on the piano—sweet. I heard their Christmas album a year or so ago was pretty good.

    And Beth liked ’em in those years, too, because she was in the band, and band kids loved those horns. (And Blood Sweat & Tears, too.)

    You got me all nostalgic, brother.

  4. I’m sure the band had some culpability for the sound, but that theater doesn’t seem to handle sound well. I saw the Manhattan Transfer there a few years back and was really disappointed in the sound quality. So much so that I vowed never to go back there for a music concert. Pretty sad for a place named the American Music Theater.

    Still, they’re getting in some good names lately.

  5. Indeed, Walt, you’ve prompted a walk down memory lane – Chicago V was one of the first albums I ever bought – I was awestruck by the woodgrain/carved album cover alone, and I can still play the beginning of Saturday in the Park on the piano.

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