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Chicago at DTE, 5 Things To Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

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Fifty years ago a collection of music students got together in Chicago, calling themselves The Big Thing.

That group, four of whose founding members are still in the band, subsequently became Chicago Transit Authority and then simply Chicago, selling more than 100 million records worldwide thanks to enduring hits such as “25 Or 6 To 4,” “Saturday In The Park,” “Colour My World,” “Hard To Say I’m Sorry” and 17 more Top 10 singles and maintaining a reputation as one of rock’s top touring acts.

There’s been more appreciation in recent years, too. Last year Chicago was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, while last month members Robert Lamm and James Pankow and former singer-bassist Peter Cetera were honored by the Songwriters Hall of Fame...

• Trumpeter Lee Loughnane says that the group’s 50 years has gone by quickly. “It feels like, as Robert said...one long, continuous tour,” Loughnane, 70, says by phone from Chicago. “We’ve been on the road every year for 50 years. I think what we did realize is that we consistently looked forward to where we’re going next, and not as much as where we have been. We’ve always tried to concentrate on what’s happening in front of us. You do that long enough and look back and it’s a pretty long stream of events.”

• Most recently -- last year -- Chicago parted ways with Jason Scheff, its singer and bassist since 1985. “Jason decided that he needed some more time off for family issues, and it got to a point where...he was going to need, like, four months off,” Loughnane says. “We can’t wait four months. None of us agreed we would be able to stay off the road like that. Everybody’s got family problems at some point or other. We did a couple of auditions and Jeff (Coffey) was the guy we chose.”

• The Florida-raised Coffey played in the band House of Dreams and toured with former Bad Company singer Brian Howe. He was recruited by Chicago guitarist Keith Howland and made his debut with the band during May of 2016. “It’s been going really, really well,” reports Loughnane. “There’s been a positive response for Jeff on all levels. He plays great bass. He’s fitting in with the band really nicely and he sings well. I can’t imagine having to change gain; It’s like moving to a new home, and everybody hates moving, y’know?”

• Then again, Chicago is used to change, with 20 official members moving through the band over the years, as well as adjunct touring extras. “You learn how to do whatever you need to do,” Loughnane explains. It becomes a necessity so you go ahead and do it. Fortunately there are multiple people who have listened to our stuff throughout the years who I think would jump at the chance to work with us. Hopefully we don’t have to go through any of that again and can just keep playing.”

• Chicago remains a recording act as well; It’s last album, “Chicago XXXVI: Now” came out in 2014, and Loughnane predicts there will be more where that came from: “We have recording gear out on the road, so we can take some time now and hopefully as we’re out on the road start focusing in on some recording as well. That’s how the last album was made, and I think we can make any future album that way. I don’t think anyone’s looking forward to any more work than we’re doing already, but in order to have a record you’ve got to put more work and time in. That’s just the way the world is.”

If You Go

• Chicago and the Doobie Brothers

• 7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 16.

• DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road east of I-75, Independence Township.

• Tickets are $39.50-$125 pavilion, $25 lawn.

• Call 248-377-0100 or visit palacenet.com.

Web Site: www.palacenet.com

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