For some Pavlovian reason, whenever the wind blows and the Earth catches fire, Judge Chris Kulik calls Chicago.
Do you mind if we get funky in here?
Two legendary bands came together in 2004 for a successful, sold-out tour. Both had been on the music scene for almost 40 years, rarely stopping to catch a breath. Sure, both have had their struggles and down moments over the years, yet they mustered on with their guitars and drums. The final show of the summer would take place at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, and it would be special for all concerned, as HD cameras were set up all over the place to record the event. Image Entertainment later released the nearly three-hour show on a two-disc, standard DVD as well as the now-defunct HD DVD. Now, we get to relive the fantastic funk on Blu-ray, but does it do the stage show (and bands) justice?
Basically, the show is split into four parts. The show opens with two songs: "Beginnings," (off Chicago's 1969 album, The Chicago Transit Authority), and "In the Stone," performed by both bands. A break follows, with Earth, Wind, and Fire lead Philip Bailey introducing everyone and talking about the lead-up to the concert. The bands then flip a coin to determine which will take center stage to play their greatest hits; it turns out to be EW&F, and they follow with 15 songs. The Chicago program has 12 tunes, and once they're finished, EW&F comes back and joins them for a smashing finale. Here is the full program, with songs listed:
PART ONE: OPENING
PART TWO: EARTH, WIND & FIRE
PART THREE: CHICAGO
PART FOUR: FINALE
While I'm not a die-hard fan of either band, I came away loving almost every second of this show. Both bands showcase their decades of experience in equal doses, and they play so natural together, that it makes one wonder why it took them so long to hook up for a tour. Over the course of the concert, we learn that both of them had listened to each other for years as well as having a genuine mutual respect. Above all, however, they just go out on stage and have a blast, giving each other high fives and pointing at each other and smiling.
As far as the program itself, I'm sure I'm not alone in saying I would have liked to see more of the bands actually playing together. The opening set is so heart-pumping it promises so much more…and yet, we have to wait over two hours before they're jammin' together again. It's comparable to Heat, in which you wanted to see Al Pacino and Robert De Niro just be side by side performing that you have you wait and be teased for an endless amount of time. Still, the half-hour-long finale—with all the members, sweating and no-doubt tired, but still full of life and energy—reach their rythmic pinnacle, especially on the classic Chicago closer "25 or 6 to 4." Verdine White (EW&F's bass player) gives a final dance worthy of its own long applause.
Some will contend that Chicago will never be the same without one-time lead singer Peter Cetera. After bailing out on the band in 1985 to embark on a solo career ("Glory of Love" for The Karate Kid Part II, among other things), a fine replacement came in the form of Jason Scheff. Songs like "Hard Habit to Break" and "Hard to Say I'm Sorry/Get Away" may not have the power of Cetera's voice, but they still surprisingly pack a punch. Even better, for "If You Leave Me Now" they bring Philip Bailey back out to do the vocals, and the results are a real treat for the eyes and ears. (Footnote: Chicago loved it so much they even included it on their 2005 Love Collection Album.) Just one quibble: where the hell is "You're the Inspiration?"
As for EW&F, original founder Maurice White contracted Parkinsons Disease and has since left the group, working behind the scenes now. However, Philip Bailey (who's been with the band since 1971), has been leading the band since White's retirement, and his funky falsetto is still glorious. Along with B. David Whitworth (vocals/percussion), Ralph Johnson (vocals/percussion), and the dynamite Verdine White, their chemistry is unmatched as far as surviving '70s bands are concerned.
Image Entertainment's Blu-ray treatment of the concert is not much different than the HD presentation from two years ago. Still, for owners of the standard DVD, it would be an upgrade just to have the entire show on one disc. Transfer-wise, we have 1080i VC-1 master in 1.78:1. While things are more than satisfactory, problems do exist, particularly when they comes to focus and saturation. Nothing major, but they pop up every now and then. Three audio options: a super DTS HD Master 5.1 track (the recommended choice), a servicable DD 5.1 track, and the last is in PCM stereo. Only extra is a "drum duel," which is worth your time if you are into that sort of thing.
While it stops short of being a knockout, the teaming of Chicago and EW&F proves to be a pleasurable one, especially for fans of both. The bands and Image Entertainment are free to go.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Image Entertainment
• Drum Duel
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