One of my earliest favorite bands appeared at the California State Fair last night. Not only was I was looking forward to hearing Chicago live for the first time, I also planned to take as many photos as my camera’s memory would allow. I already had my media credential and I expected that, like the Tesla concert that opened the Fair, I would be allowed access to get some good close-ups. It saddens me to say that I was thoroughly disappointed on all counts.
Upon arrival, I was admitted to the reserved seating area. It was about an hour before the scheduled show time and I wanted to check my angles, pre-compose my shots and dial in my camera settings. So far, so good, but after about 15 minutes, I was approached by security personnel and told that I would not be able to remain where I was without a credential from the band. Ok, where do I get such a credential? “At the media center,” I am told. Fine, off to the media center I go.
And the people manning the media center have no idea what I’m talking about. They explained that I needed to talk to the band’s promoter. Of course, they were unavailable. So I’m relegated to the general admission area… and my lens was just long enough to get some halfway decent shots from there… if I could have stayed there. Again security told me I had to move back. When I asked how far, the security supervisor relayed my question via radio. The response, ostensibly “from the band” was “about 150 miles away.” Nothing like reaching out to embrace the media!
I ended up by the mixing board, much too far to get anything worthwhile. Around the entrances to the seating areas were signs warning that video and audio recording devices were prohibited. This is not an unusual request, but barring media the way this band did was more than just a little over the top. Then came an in-between songs announcement from Robert Lamm, one of the original band members:
I know you all have your audio recorders and you video cameras and your... cameras. And your cell phones. I want you all to take them out right now and take pictures of us, take pictures of yourselves… and I want you all to put them up on YouTube.
I didn’t have my digital audio recorder with me, so the preceding is paraphrased, but that is the essence of what he said. I don’t know if I sufficiently captured the sarcasm that oozed from his statement, however, especially in light of the signs so prominently posted at every entrance. Combined with what can only be described as an antagonistic relationship with the press, I can only draw one conclusion. And today, after snooping around the band’s official website, I find that they invite photographers to send their photos of the band so that they might be featured, fully accredited, on their website. Color my world confused.
Ah, but what about the music? Was it wonderful? Did it move me like I knew it would? Maybe it would have, had I stayed long enough. They came on about 10 minutes late and proceeded to play their newer stuff; the stuff that has met with so much commercial indifference; the stuff that nobody really cared about. When they finally did get to the classic Chicago, it just stunk. Yea, it stunk, sorry. I know there were thousands of their legions cheering the band on. I know that they were truly surprised and pleased that so many were in attendance. I also know they stunk. Ok, they were competent musically. They were fairly tight (not, however, even close to what I have experienced from many other “professionals”), but they had a job to do and in my humble opinion, they failed miserably.
I walked out after about 30 minutes. They had a little more than an hour left from what was allotted to them - and they might have delivered in that time, but they failed to set the hook - I was gone. I won’t be back - not unless I’m with an organization that can navigate their “rules.” And then it will be strictly business. Chicago has been around a long time. On their website, their story spans 13 chapters, the last is titled, “Call Them Chicago.” A fitting title considering the only thing that resembles the band in its heyday is the name.