I once spent an evening listening to The Ink Spots. Of course, they weren’t the real thing. It was the 1970s and the vocal group, formed in the 1930s, had broken up in 1954. Dozens of groups were touring using their name. The closest the group I saw came to the original quartet was maybe one of them had an uncle who might have seen them perform.
Such film-flammery was not an issue with The Doobie Brothers and Chicago, two groups who did their best work in the 1970s, and appeared last night on the Budweiser Stage (formerly the Molson Amphitheatre). Both groups were terrific and included original members. For the Doobies (formed in 1969 when a doobie was a marijuana cigarette), Tom Johnston, now sixty-eight and the original lead vocalist, performed, as did guitarist John McFee who has been with the band for forty years. Their two biggest hits were Listen to the Music and Long Train Running.
Chicago had way more hits including Colour My World, Saturday in the Park and I’m a Man. Of the nine-member troupe, celebrating fifty years in 2017, I think three were founding members: Robert Lamm on keyboards, Walter Parazaider on saxophone, and Jimmy Pankow on trombone, who was my favourite. At sixty-nine his energy and choreography added poise and power to the staging.
The average age of the 15,000 in attendance was probably 65. Nostalgia is one obvious reason why we all went but I think the draw runs deeper than that. As Chicago sings: “Does anybody really know what time it is/Does anybody really care?” For three-and-a-half hours we all felt thirty-something again. Or maybe we didn’t even care how old we were.