Saturday Night: Chicago & The Doobie Brothers At Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
At many classic rock shows, there's no phrase more guaranteed to start a run on bathroom and beer lines than "And now here's something from our new record." But you know what? Classic Rock Bob wants to hear new material, along with the big radio hits and a few choice deep album cuts. If all you're interested in is a greatest-hits jukebox, stay home and play your CDs.
And while they could have done a full showering of just the hits - even without any Michael McDonald-era material - the Doobie Brothers delivered all three of those aspects. Their raucous, joyful set was spearheaded by fiery and energetic singer/guitarist Tom Johnston, belying his 61 years ("He's the reason I started playing guitar!" Classic Rock Brother informed us at the start of the set). Keyboardist Guy Allison even sported a Houston Astros shirt.
After opening with two familiar numbers to get the blood pumping, the Doobs hit three straight songs from their upcoming new record, World Gone Crazy: A re-worked version of "Nobody" (the first track off their 1971 debut), the funky, danceable title track about New Orleans, and the bluesy, ballsy rocker "Back to the Chateau," which allowed longtime guitarist John McFee to show off his bottleneck chops. If these songs are any indication for the Sept. 24 release, the record should be a killer.
Hardcore fans got a treat with "Clear as the Driven Snow" (from The Captain and Me) and A cover of Sonny Boy Williamson's "Don't Start Me to Talkin'" (from Toulouse Street), which led into a blues jam that actually jammed and didn't overstay its welcome.
Singer/guitarist Patrick Simmons - an original/classic lineup member, along with Johnston - got the crowd up with "Black Water" (not failing to name check the city/state of the show as usual), and then Johnston's party-perfect "China Grove." The only weak spot was their cover of '60s soul classic "Little Bitty Pretty One," to which the band remains mysteriously devoted to for some reason.
But if Los Hermanos de Sustanivo pleased fans of all levels, Chicago turned in such a shockingly slick and poor performance that Mayor Richard Daley may petition the band to change its name to avoid embarrassment. Even disgraced former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich isn't returning the band's calls.