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Brian Wilson and Chicago Rock Northwell Health at Jones Beach

By Mike Perciaccante

Wantagh, NY July 15, 2022

If someone created a playlist featuring the greatest hits of the ‘60s and ‘70s, the music of Brian Wilson (the Beach Boys) and Chicago would most certainly account for a good portion of the set.

Chicago was inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2016. The band was inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2014. Founding members James Pankow and Robert Lamm inducted into the Songwriters Hall Of Fame in 2017. Over its 46-year career, Chicago has released just shy of forty (40) albums, had twenty (20) Top-10 pop and twenty-two (22) Top-10 adult contemporary hit singles and has sold more than 100 million records. Chicago is currently comprised of three original members--Robert Lamm on keys and vocals, James Pankow on trombone and Lee Loughnane on trumpet and vocals-- with Tony Obrohta on guitar; Loren Gold on keyboards and vocals; Wally Reyes, Jr. on drums; Eric Baines on bass and vocals; Ray Herrmann on sax and flute; Neil Donell on vocals and Ramon “Ray” Yslas on percussion.

Brian Wilson has been called a contemporary Mozart. The singer, songwriter and producer co-founded the Beach Boys. His unique approaches to composition, lyrics, complex orchestration and harmonies combined with his unparalleled abilities in the studio made the Beach Boys one of the biggest acts to ever grace a stage. Among Wilson’s many accolades are nine Grammy Award nominations (with two wins), election to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1988 with the Beach Boys, induction into the Songwriter’s Hall Of Fame in 2000 and membership in the UK Music Hall of Fame. In 2003 Wilson was the recipient of an honorary Doctorate of Music from Northeastern University. In 2007, the Kennedy Center recognized Wilson for a lifetime of contributions to American culture through the performing arts in music.

On a pleasant Friday evening in mid-July, fans of both Wilson and Chicago at the Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater on Long Island were treated to an aural experience not to be forgotten.

Wilson and his band were on first. The basic band featured founding Beach Boy member Al Jardine (guitar and vocals); Al’s son, Matt Jardine (guitar and vocals); Wilson’s son-in-law, Rob Bonfiglio (multiple instruments and vocals); musical director Darian Sahanaja (keyboards and vocals); Proban Gregory (guitar and vocals); Bob Lizik (bass); Gary Griffin (keyboards and vocals), Jim Laspesa (percussion and vocals); Paul Von Mertens (Saxophone) and Mike D’Amico (drums). Blondie Chaplin who was member of the Beach Boys in the ‘70s, and is known as the singer of “Sail On Sailor,” appeared on guitar and vocals during the middle portion of the set as well as for the finale. Wilson, as is his custom, played his white piano and intermittently engaged with the audience. He introduced a few of the songs and sang the occasional background vocal.

The set began with a string of Beach Boys classics: “California Girls,” “Do It Again” (with Al Jardine on lead vocals), “I Get Around, “Little Deuce Coupe,” “Surfer Girl” and “Don't Worry Baby” featuring Matt Jardine on vocals).

Things got edgier and funkier when Wilson introduced Chaplin. The guitarist led the band through a very rockin’ version of “Wild Honey.” Chaplin then handled the vocals on the Carl Wilson composition “Long Promised Road,” which was featured in the recently released documentary Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road (Universal Pictures, 2021) and “Sail On Sailor.”

The performance was magical. Among the tunes making an appearance were: “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “Sloop John B” (featuring vocals by Al Jardine), “God Only Knows” (which was received with a standing ovation), "Heroes & Villains" and covers of “Be My Baby” and "I Can Hear Music."

The remainder of the set was non-stop hits, a veritable Beach Boys jukebox featuring all twelve musicians, playing their hearts out, that evolved into an audience sing-a-long. The final four songs were “Good Vibrations,” “Help Me Rhonda,” “Surfin’ U.S.A.” and “Fun, Fun, Fun.” The band then took their bows and waved good-bye goodbye to a standing ovation.

After a short intermission, Chicago took the stage. They wasted little time by opening with “Introduction” the opener from their debut album Chicago Transit Authority (Columbia, 1969). With the venue’s huge video screens showing vintage footage, great graphics, animation and videos that provided extra texture to individual songs, Chicago roared through a set that included: “(I’ve Been) Searchin’ So Long;” “Old Days” (featuring Donell); “If This Is Goodbye” from Born For This Moment (BMG, 2022) which was released earlier that day; James Pankow’s suite, “Ballet for a Girl in Buchanan” the medley which comprises the vast majority of side two of Chicago II (Columbia, 1970) and includes “Make Me Smile” and Colour My World;” “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?;” “Beginnings;” “If You Leave Me Now” and the jazzy “Mongonucleosis.”

Additional highlights included “Dialogue (Part I &2),” “You’re The Inspiration,” a cover of Spencer Davis Group’s “I’m A Man” (which featured a wonderful interplay between Reyes’ drums and Yslas’ percussion and some amazing fretwork by Obrohta) as well as “Just You And Me.”

The final portion of the show was a Chicago fan’s dream—back to back to back to back to back hits. With the entirety of the audience on their feel, the last three songs of the main set were “Hard For Me To Say I’m Sorry/Get Away,” Lamm’s masterpiece “Saturday In The Park” and the main set closer “Feeling Stronger Every Day.” The encores were “Free,” and a tour de force version of “25 or 6 To 4.” After taking their bows, Pankow stepped forward and simply stated, “We’ll see you again next time.” And with that, they were gone.

Photographs by Christine Connallon


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