Concert Spotlight: Interview with Chicago

World-Class Hitmakers Return to Coney Island

One of the best-selling bands of all time, Chicago, plays Ford Amphitheater at Coney Island Boardwalk October 1. Chicago’s hits are inescapable, with many of the Windy City-originating band’s inspirations coming from The Big Apple like “Saturday In the Park” and “Another Rainy Day In New York City.” The rock & roll band has represented the American spirit for decades, having formed in 1967, opening for Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix in the late 60s, and hitting it big in the 1970s and 80s.

Blending jazz with rock & roll, echoing harmonies, danceable grooves, and meaningful ballads, Chicago has long turned live music into an experience and a culture. The 2016 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees have sold over 100 million albums and accrued 11 No. 1 singles, while 25 of their 36 albums have sold at platinum status. Today, four original members–Robert Lamm on keyboards and vocals, Lee Loughnane on trumpet and vocals, James Pankow on trombone, and Walt Parazaider on woodwinds– solidify Chicago with other band members Tris Imboden on drums, Keith Howland on guitar and vocals, Lou Pardini on keyboards and vocals, Ray Herrmann on saxophone and flute, Walfredo Reyes, Jr. on percussion, and Jeff Coffey on bass and vocals. Chicago’s Lee Loughnane took some time to speak with New York City Monthly about some of the band’s favorite NYC shows of the past, why the live show and band are better than ever, and how having a deep passion has informed and enriched his life and those of his bandmates.

Chicago co-headlined tours with The Doobie Brothers and Earth Wind & Fire over the past two years. What was the highlight for you sharing the stage with these other iconic bands and what will be particularly special about this upcoming fall tour with just your band? 

The highlight for me is just being given the opportunity to continue playing music for people all over the world and to play it with such world-class musicians. And the thing that continues to be special for me playing with Chicago is, as strange as it might seem, that the band continues to improve. I love playing music for people and I think the rest of the band thinks exactly the way I do.

2017 marks the bands 50th consecutive year touring, without missing a single concert date. Was there ever a time you or another band member had something that they skipped because the band had a show that stands out?

Throughout the course of our career there have been multiple family events I have had to miss because of being on tour. It has been impossible for me to have lasting marriages as a result of continuing to pursue my musical passion. No matter how many family events I have been able to make, it hasn’t been enough to satisfy my multiple ex-wives.

Having said all that, I’m very happy to have been gifted with five great children throughout my four marriages and show them what it takes to follow through with pursuing a passion in life. Whatever their individual passion is, they will have to make some very difficult decisions which will affect their family life. Even though some of my decisions have strained a couple of the kids’ relationships with me, I’m happy to say the strained relationships have improved significantly and the strong relationships have remained as strong as they have ever been. So, as you can see, as great as it is to be able to say we haven’t missed a show, except for a couple weather-related events, there’s a price to pay, so make sure you enjoy what you’re doing. In retrospect, I wouldn’t change a thing.

As one of the four original members of the band, playing trumpet and flugelhorn and adding your vocals, how do you and original members Robert, James, and Walt lead the band with your roots, and how have the other band members been able to help you carry the legacy?

I think you can say that we influenced how they play by allowing them to have their own interpretation of how they add their unique voice to the songs. They grew up hearing the music on radio and records and at that time had no idea they would be playing with us. Any changes in personnel have only improved the band.

The band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2016, Chicago’s record sales have topped 100 million, you have 21 top-10 singles, and you’ve won countless other awards as a band. What’s one milestone that always sticks with you or with the band?

For me the biggest milestone is that we get to keep performing. That’s why we started this band in the first place.

From the complex horns to the inspiring harmonies, Chicago’s live show is like an experience, a celebration even. Is there a particular memory of a show in New York City that has been a great thrill for the band?

I have great memories of Carnegie Hall, The Beacon, Coney Island, and Jones Beach. Wherever we play in the New York area we know we are going to be playing for a sophisticated crowd who know what they like and are very appreciative of a good show.