SARATOGA SPRINGS — “We’re doing a lengthy show because we’ve had a lengthy career,” said Robert Lamm at Saratoga Performing Arts Center.
So have openers the Doobie Brothers: Both bands juke-boxed decades of hits Tuesday before a happy, boomer crowd.
Chicago was best when tightest, swinging tricky rhythms and precision horn arrangements. The Doobies charmed most when loosest, in that graceful guitar-Harley chug that beckons toward the open road.
Great songs stay great; not all classic-rockers do, needing replacements as original members leave. Both bands played ably Tuesday; vocally, the Doobie Brothers arguably echoed their hits more faithfully than Chicago.
Original Doobies singers Tom Johnston and Patrick Simmons remain; they lack only their 1980s soulman Michael McDonald, and Simmons simulated McDonald’s R&B growl well in “Takin’ It To the Streets” Tuesday.
Chicago gave new bassist Jeff Coffey the high parts Peter Cetera then Jason Scheff or Bill Champlin once sang; eager, energetic Coffey lacked Cetera’s romantic depth or Champlin’s elasticity.
To their credit, the Doobies reached past radio rockers “Jesus is Just Alright With Me,” “Rockin’ Down the Highway,” “Takin’ It To the Streets,” “Black Water,” “China Grove” and “Listen to the Music” – these excited the crowd and deserved to.
They also surprised with deep cuts “Dark Eyed Cajun Woman,” “Spirit,” as a country breakdown, while “Eyes of Silver” rode a relaxed jam feel that “Clear as the Driven Snow” took far further, swapping easy rustic charm for zippy explorations that echoed…
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