Robert Lamm - keyboards, lead vocals; Terry Kath - guitar, lead vocals; Peter Cetera - bass, lead vocals; James Pankow - trombone, percussion; Lee Loughnane - trumpet, percussio, background vocals; Walter Parazaider - woodwinds, percussion, background vocals; Daniel Seraphine - drums
These recordings are from the final night of a run that featured Chicago Transit Authority opening and closing a show that also featured sets by The Youngbloods and Colosseum in between. These remarkable sets capture the band riding high on the great success of their debut album and performing that material, along with some of the songs destined for their second album, which they were recording in Los Angeles that same month. Many of the songs that established the band are here and remind us that this was once a band with serious musicianship whose wide-ranging creativity was both aggressive and inviting. The group had an undeniable flare for writing captivating pop songs, but it is the lengthier, more experimental material that is most impressive here. Terry Kath's sizzling neo-psychedelic guitar playing is simply outstanding on these sets and reveal exactly why Jimi Hendrix himself was so impressed. Blood, Sweat & Tears (with founder Al Kooper long gone) was the other horn band experiencing great commercial success at this time, but Chicago had a gutsier sound, and in many ways were fulfilling the promise of the original Al Kooper-led version of that band. Chicago would become progressively less adventurous with every album, but in 1969, they were one of the most confident, diverse, and just plain exciting bands on the planet.
Following a brief stage introduction, where the MC says, "Just about the most exciting thing to happen to the Windy City since the big fire -- a real heavy -- let's welcome Chicago," the early show begins. They kick it off with "Poem 58." It begins as a guitar-heavy tour de force with Terry Kath absolutely ripping away, prior to becoming an intriguing bluesy love song. Like much of Chicago's early material, this is a lengthy modular composition, featuring plenty of tight ensemble playing as well as sections for improvisational flights.
A brief freeform piano improvisation by Robert Lamm leads directly into a tight letter perfect rendition of "Does Anyone Really Know What Time It Is," one of the songs receiving AM radio attention at the time and that would become one of their first big hits. Another lengthier composition, "It Better End Soon," follows, where Robert Lamm voices his political opinions within another modular framework. The remainder of the early show vacillates between additional first album material, such as Lamm's power-pop confection, "Questions 67 & 68" and the Lamm/Pankow composition, "Someday," as well as new material destined for their second album; sessions for which were currently in progress at the time of this run.
"Poem For The People," although missing a few seconds near the end (due to the reel running out) is expectedly almost identical to it's studio counterpart. The same can be said for the setclosing "25 Or 6 To 4," which they were also recording at the time, but in the case of the latter, the bands enthusiasm for this new song is contagious and it is wonderful hearing this classic early Chicago number when it was so vibrant and new.
Following this, a stage announcement is made saying "They'll be back to close our show." Earlier in the set, Robert Lamm says, "We can't play everything now, but we'll play the other songs at the next one," which is exactly what they do during the incendiary set that closes the show later that night.