Dallas crowds are never early, or even on time, especially when its 101 degrees at an outdoor venue. Many people made an exception, though, as 80-year-old Brian Wilson brought his band to the Dos Equis Pavilion to play a half century of Beach Boys songs.
It was somewhat bittersweet to see the musical genius as he was led to his piano by two aides as he held onto his rolling walker and received a tremendous round of applause. Wilson only sang a couple of songs, including "Fun, Fun, Fun" to end the show and played the piano on a few more, but this was a tribute to his creating a generation of surfer-music lovers with his lyrics, melodies and harmonies all layered together into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame music.
Most songs were sung by co-founding Beach Boys member Al Jardine, including "Help Me Rhonda" and "Sloop John B" or his fantastic vocalist son, Matt. Keyboardist Darian Sahanaja added a rich, soulful voice to "Darlin" and a cover of The Ronettes "Be My Baby" and the irrepressible, hyper entertainer Blondie Chaplin on "Sail On Sailor" and others with his unique voice and melodic interpretation.
Blondie, a long-time friend and musical associate of Brian, also provided energy to the crowd and the band. He wasnt in two places at once, but it wasnt for lack of trying. He zigged, zagged, ran and sashayed from one end of the stage to the other many times.
The collection of terrific musicians played all the hits, but the star of the show was the stoic Brian Wilson. Always shy and introverted, the audience appreciated the chance to see him and honor him one more time.
With no introduction, the members of Chicago hit the stage and immediately performed the first hits of their 27-song set. The classics "Dialogue (Part 1 & 2)" and "Questions 67 and 68" set the tone for the evening as founding member Robert Lamm sang and played the keytar. Lead vocalist Neil Donell was in fine voice all night and sang most of the Peter Cetera and Terry Kath songs.
Other co-founders Lee Loughnane and James Pankow led the horn section at the front of the stage most of the night with Pankow single-handedly making the trombone look cool. They called themselves "a rock band with horns" and it was as true today as it was 38 albums ago. Donell sang a medley of their ballads, including "Old Days" and the harmony-heavy "If You Leave Me Now" before shifting gears.
"Make Me Smile," with its timeless melody and lyrics, segued into "Colour My World," the official last song of every high school dance for over 20 years. Dancers crowded the aisles for Lamms "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is" before Pankow gave a heartfelt speech about finally getting to play in front of live audiences again.
Every time they began a song, the crowd erupted as the first few notes signaled it was another hit song that took the fans back to simpler times.Timeless lyrics and pulsating melodies filled the air and showed why Chicago has sold over 100 million albums.
Jams also became a focal point as arguably the best horn section in rock history took over on "Beginnings" and "Im A Man." Wally Reyes on drums and Ray Yslas on percussion also thrilled the crowd with a long dual-percussion jam with both drummers hitting serious licks on the kits.
The extremely tight band made all the songs sound fresh as every combined note of the 10-piece band contributed to an overall musical tone. The audience sang along to "Saturday In The Park" before the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers finished with a jam-infused "Feeling Stronger Every Day."
A great encore ended the night as "Free" contained solos from almost every band member before they combined to play another jam. The long-time favorite "25 Or 6 To 4" was a rocking monster with a guitar solo reminiscent of the Terry Kath, the most underrated guitarist ever, to finish the show.
The breadth of Chicagos music was on full display as every fan got to hear several of their favorite songs in the two-hour set. Concert goers got to hear meticulous music from the band and great harmonies of the songs mostly written by Robert Lamm, James Pankow and Peter Cetera, all members of the Songwriting Hall of Fame.
Pankow, who again may be the only person to make the trombone look cool, swore they would keep playing music until they take away his car keys. Before that happens, catch them on tour. Its not just a part of your youth, its a soundtrack to your life.