Photos by Emily Butler – www.emilybutlerphotography.com
The torrential rain could not kill the enthusiasm of a near sellout crowd at The Verizon Amphitheatre last night in Alpharetta. Between them, The Doobie Brothers and Chicago have 90 years of experience, sold over 150 million albums and produced 25 top 10 singles in 3 different decades. The Doobie Brothers kicked things off promptly at 7:30 with “Jesus is Just Alright” and did not let up for their entire 75 minutes. In addition to the expected sing along hits like “Rockin’ Down the Highway”, “China Grove”, and “Black Water” they tossed in a couple of deeper cuts for the more seasoned fan “Spirit” and “Clear as the Driven Snow”. Two original members Tom Johnston and Pat Simmons, were joined by longtime multi-instrumentalist John Mcfee and keyboardist Bill Payne, an original member of Little Feat. Despite the years, the Doobies’ harmonies are spot on, and the songs sounded as fresh as ever.
Chicago are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year and show no signs of slowing down. Original members Robert Lamm, Lee Loughnane and James Pankow were joined by a talented ensemble, notably, recently added Jeff Coffey who handily assumed bass guitar duties and sang the tenor parts made famous by Peter Cetera. The set list pulled heavily from their double platinum 1969 debut album “Chicago Transit Authority” with “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is”, “Beginnings”, “Questions 67 and 68” and “I’m a Man”, which featured a drum solo by percussionist Walfredo Reyes, Jr. and drummer Tris Imboden. The backdrop was an impressive, enormous high definition video screen that alternated between psychedelic imagery during the older tunes and scenes of happy loving couples during the more sentimental ones. While the entire band moved around the stage throughout the two hour plus set, James Pankow’s stage presence was a cut above. Whether he was strutting around the stage, dancing with his trombone, or shaking it for the appreciative ladies in the front row, he’s got moves that would make Tom Jones jealous.
Closing out the set with arguably their hardest rocking song 25 or 6 to 4, guitarist Keith Howland and Chicago held the Alpharetta crowd in rapt attention until the very end of the set, nobody was leaving this show early to relieve the babysitter. Next time this tour comes to town, it’d be safe to say that the majority of these fans will be back for more. Hopefully by then the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame voters will finally realize their error and The Doobie Brothers will be in their rightful place in the hall next to 2016 inductees Chicago.”