Reprinted from yesterday's editions
Rock 'n' roll, the modern musical steam roller, met the super-charged sound of big-band jazz in 1968. That year, Mike Bloomfield's Electric Flag and Al Cooper's Blood, Sweat and Tears combined the driving rhythms and high volume of rock with the power of jazz horn section and the two seemed a perfect match. When those bands began to dim, the standard was passed to a new group with the potential for an exciting new rock style.
Monday night at the Merriweather Post Pavilion, that group, Chicago, presented the commercial, if not musical, qualities of big-band rock. A near-capacity crowd greeted their performance with a rousing ovation and the musicians responded by referring to their songs as "masterpieces" and by congratulating each other after their solos.
The commercial success, the ovation and the camarederie of the eight piece group notwithstanding, the music of Chicago is a poor relation to the "Flag" and Cooper's BS&T. Chicago's block-like horn phrases and their work are homogenized to the point of monotony. The sound of the group has not changed substantially since the death of lead guitarist Terry Kath. His replacement, Donnie Dacus, obviously subscribes to the Peter Frampton school of guitar - flashy appearance and fancy dancing that subs for undistinguished playing.
Chicago attempted to add interest with an elaborate art-deco stage set and background projections, yet they were hampered by a sound system that reduced their playing to a musical mush. It didn't matter. With the blandness of their songs and their self-serving stage introductions, the sound system was the least of their problems.