Chicago is back in Las Vegas for an extended run of concerts and couldn’t be happier about it. Songwriter, keyboard player and vocalist Robert Lamm told me the band has been so excited about its mini-residency at the Venetian, which kicked off Wednesday, that the group members got together to plan a unique and extensive setlist.
“Last year, our second album — the one with “Make Me Smile” and “Colour My World” and “25 or 6 to 4” — was completely remixed and remastered by Warner [Music Group] by the renowned Steve Wilson and we had no idea this was being done,” Lamm says. “As a result, the album was in the running for the Grammy album hall of fame. So we decided to look at that double album, about 75 minutes of music, and we rehearsed it thoroughly last fall and started to play it in its entirety as an experiment.”
The eponymous album from 1970, sometimes referred to as “Chicago II,” will be the first half of a long show at the Vegas gigs, and Lamm says the fans have been eating it up so far. “Most of these songs, we haven’t played for 45 years or something like that, so rediscovering them for ourselves is really a trip, and having the audience react in such a positive way is another trip.”
One of four founding members of the legendary pop-rock outfit still with the band, Lamm wrote the hard-charging “25 or 6 to 4,” as well as many of Chicago’s biggest hits like “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” and “Saturday in the Park.” He was recognized for his efforts last year when he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, a pretty incredible combination with Chicago’s induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2016.
“They were two very different phenomenons for me,” Lamm says. “I loved that the band finally made it and that was a lot of fun with our contemporaries with us and in the audience. But I consider myself primarily a songwriter and secondarily a performer, so that [Songwriters Hall of Fame] was really an honor. If you look at that list, those are people that taught me so much and I feel like I don’t belong, but I’m very happy to accept it because writing is something I’ve never stopped doing, reaching into the unknown to see what else I could learn about music.”
Chicago will be touring with REO Speedwagon this summer and is refining a new lineup in Vegas: Walfredo Reyes Jr. has moved into the drummer’s chair with his brother Daniel picking up other percussion duties; Brett Simons, formerly of the Zac Brown Band, is on bass; and Canadian singer Neil Donell takes vocal duties. They join horn section Lee Loughnane, Walt Parazaider, Ray Herrmann and James Pankow; Keith Howland on guitar; and Lou Pardini and Lamm on keyboards. “It’s crazy how the lineup changes and the band gets better,” Lamm says. “I hope the audience digs these guys as much as we do, because we’re pretty picky.”
Chicago performs at 8 p.m. Feb. 9, 10, 14, 16, 17, 21, 23 and 24 at the Venetian Theatre (3355 Las Vegas Blvd., 702-414-9000). One dollar from every ticket sold to these shows will benefit the Las Vegas Victims Fund. Find more info at venetian.com.