The Chicago Experience
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The Chicago Experience

Chicago, IL | Established. Jan 01, 2012

Chicago, IL
Established on Jan, 2012
Band Pop Rock




"Forgotten Hits - Concert Review - The Chicago Experience"


I have raved about these guys before ... going so far as to say they sound better live in concert than Chicago themselves ...

And they proved me right again Friday Night (January 25th) at The Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights, IL.

Playing to a sold out house, they performed the second Chicago album (Chicago II) in its entirety, start to finish as their first set ... producing letter-perfect renditions of this landmark LP. (And they didn't even have to change to Peter Cetera's new key to perform "25 Or 6 To 4"!!!) Chicago did the same thing in concert a couple of years ago and it didn't come off anywhere near as exciting as this performance did ... simply amazing.

After a brief intermission, a second set concentrated on the hits ... including GREAT tracks like "Dialogue" (consistently one of their strongest live tracks), "Just You 'n' Me," "If You Leave Me Now" (Chicago's first #1 Record ... which, of course, I knew ... but nobody else in the audience guessed), "Questions 67 And 68," "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is," "Saturday In The Park," "Beginnings," "I'm A Man," "Happy Man," the truly Forgotten Hit "Free" and "Hard To Say I'm Sorry" / "Getaway".

Now some cynics out there will criticize that this is "just a cover band" ... but The Chicago Experience is far more than that ... I would better define it as "The Ultimate Tribute" to an artist that revolutionized the music scene in the 1970's and '80's.

Between lead vocalists Brian Hemstock (covering the Peter Cetera vocals) and Jeff Anthony (who nails every Terry Kath growl with both the utmost precision and respect), they do a far better job of representing the Chicago sound we all know and love than anything the real band has put up on stage in over twenty years. This is because they go out of their way to energetically present a loving tribute to that sound and work extremely hard to present it to their audience flawlessly in a live concert setting. And let me assure you, they achieve this goal in every aspect.

Guitarist and Musical Director Ron Brandt wails on guitar, reproducing many of Terry Kath's finest licks in perfect fashion (while throwing in a few of his own for good measure.) He also contributes both lead and backing vocals throughout their performance ... and is genuinely humbled by and appreciative of all the accolades the band has been receiving over the years.

And don't underestimate the contribution of bassist Tim Rutter for a minute ... besides providing a flawless bottom end (on some extremely difficult and complicated pieces), he, too, takes center stage for a couple of amazing lead vocals.

A quick shout out, too, to Adam Cowger on drums and Paul Wood on keyboards ... both of whom fill their respective roles in fine fashion. (And I would be remiss not to acknowledge their sound man, who mixed the sound PERFECTLY ... one of the best, most balanced shows we've ever seen. I will admit that I had some concerns about how over-powering things might be for a nine-piece band to be performing in what can best be described as a relatively small theater ... but you couldn't have asked for a more balanced blend of perfect sound.)

And last but certainly not least, the AMAZING Chicago Experience Horn Section ...

Add your own superlative here ... it just doesn't get any better than the incredibly talented multi-instrumentalist Jim Massoth on a variety of saxes, oboe and flute, Steve Frost on trumpet and Terry Viano on trombone, all of whom capture the very essence of the Chicago sound ... and then kick it up another notch thanks to the energy and performance level of a live show.

It just doesn't get any better than this.

Not forgetting that the band Chicago in their early days was forced to present both Peter Cetera and Terry Kath singing live while playing their respective instruments (in this case, bass and lead guitar), the very fact that The Chicago Experience is staffed in a way that allows the lead vocalists to concentrate solely on their vocals while Rutter and Brandt are afforded the same luxury to fully devote their full attention to exploring and executing their instruments, is exactly what elevates these guys above and beyond your typical tribute band. You are hearing each singer and musician afforded the freedom to perform at their very best ... and I can attest that EVERY show I have ever seen them do can boast of this excellence live on stage.

Five Stars ... check them out at their monthly gig at Venuti's in Addison ... and at some of these other upcoming dates (more shows added all the time ... so be sure to check the website before making any final plans) - Kent Kotal

"The Chicago Experience a blast from the past"

THREE OAKS — The Chicago Experience is a group of musicians from the Chicago area playing the music of Chicago, the self-described “rock and roll band with horns.”

Having to split their earnings among nine members, The Chicago Experience is not in it for the money.

“Every member in the band has a true love and passion for their music,” trumpeter Steve Frost says. “Everybody has got their own thing, like their day jobs or playing in other organizations. Some guys work the studios and things like that.”

The Chicago Experience, which formed about eight years ago, performs their tribute to Chicago on Friday at The Acorn Theater.

“It evolved to the current lineup for about the last four years,” Frost says. “Through that transition period, we were assembling the choice guys that we wanted to be part of it. I really believe that we got some of the best players in the Chicago area.”

The Chicago Experience features three lead vocalists – Brian Hemstock, Adam Briel and Ron Brandt, who also plays guitar – bassist Tim Rutter, keyboardist/guitarist Paul Wood and drummer Adam Cowger. Of course, the band wouldn’t be complete without the three-piece horn section of Frost – who also plays flugelhorn – trombonist Terry Viano and saxophonist/flutist Jim Massoth.

Chicago was formed in 1967, when most of the members were students at DePaul University in Chicago. They have since become one of the longest-running and best-selling groups of all time.

“I was about 13 years old when an older cousin of mine said, ‘You’ve got to hear this band,’” Frost says. “It turned my life around. As it turns out, I went to DePaul like a lot of those guys. My trumpet teacher taught (Chicago trumpet player) Lee Loughnane. I started with him before I got to DePaul. Once I found out that he taught him, I just drilled him for stories. I truly fell in love with Chicago. They gave me a reason to keep playing because I was a young kid. When you see that this fits into rock and roll, it gave us horn players something to play.”

About half of the members of The Chicago Experience are old enough to have grown up on Chicago’s music during the band’s heyday in the 1970s.

“Different songs mean different things to us because we were living through it,” Frost says. “The other half of the band – these young guys – are just discovering it, especially the early stuff. They may have been kids when the pop ballads were happening. They hear this rocking stuff from the early days, the (late guitarist) Terry Kath era, and they are like, ‘Woah.’ It’s a kick. Chicago has such a wide variety and such a depth of songs.”

The Chicago Experience focuses a good portion of their setlist on the early years, especially Chicago’s first two records, 1969’s “Chicago Transit Authority” and the 1970 self-titled album, which features songs like “Beginnings,” “Questions 67 and 68” and “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?”

“We even do some of the deep cuts that I don’t think anybody does, including Chicago,” Frost says. “We do ‘In the Country,’ ‘Fancy Colours,’ ‘Movin’ In.’”

Of course, the band also plays the popular power ballads like “Hard Habit to Break,” “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” and “You’re the Inspiration” from the 1980s.

“Those songs meant a lot to a lot of folks,” Frost says. “Some people like the original rocking group, which we do, too. They are still great songs. I think the one thing we can all appreciate about Chicago is the songs.”

During this so-called “Peter Cetera ballad era,” the horn section was often relegated to the background, losing Chicago’s signature sound.

“I agree, being the trumpet player,” Frost says. “It’s not the rocking stuff we grew up on. They took a backseat.”

While Chicago named themselves after the city they began in, the group famously moved to Los Angeles very early in their career, making The Chicago Experience the only Chicago-based band performing Chicago music.

“If you Google ‘Chicago tribute bands,’ I am sure there are dozens of them around the country,” Frost says. “I can truly say that all of us guys, for the most part, grew up here.”

Frost has met members of Chicago a few times.

“They didn’t let me down,” he says. “Sometimes, you meet your heroes and either they are having a bad day or they are not nice people. These guys were just incredibly gracious. I can’t say enough about them.”

The Chicago Experience also has played with Chicago’s original drummer Danny Seraphine and Bill Champlin, who sang and played keyboards and guitar for Chicago for more than 25 years.

“We’ve done a handful of gigs with those guys,” Frost says. “Danny has even reached out and used our horn section with his band CTA, California Transit Authority. We’re proud of that. We have a good working relationship with Danny. Every time he comes to the Midwest, he calls us up.”

The Chicago Experience most recently played with Seraphine and Champlin last summer at The Arcada Theatre in St. Charles, Ill.

“I can’t tell you what a thrill it is to play with Danny,” Frost says. “As a kid, I would have never dreamt to even meet any of those guys, let alone perform with them. I can’t say enough about that.”

The members of Chicago Experience also have performed with classic Chicago-based bands like The Buckinghams, The Ides of March and The Cryan’ Shames.

Frost considers it an honor to pay tribute to one of his earliest musical influences.

“Being one of the most iconic rock and roll bands of our time, it gives us a chance to reach generations of fans,” he says. “It is such a wide demographic that their songs touched. We just have a blast doing it.” - The Herald Palladium


Still working on that hot first release.


Feeling a bit camera shy


The Chicago Experience is just as it sounds - a group of musicians who call

Chicago home, and who share a love for the music of one of the greatest rock n'

roll bands of all time… Chicago. Together, the band recreates the sound and feel

of Chicago's music, who's hit songs have touched generations of fans spanning

several decades. The Chicago Experience invites you to relive memories of the

music that captured everyone’s hearts! From the early hits off Chicago Transit

Authority’s 1968 self-titled album, such as “Beginnings” and “Does Anybody Really

Know What Time It Is?", through the 1980’s, with Chicago’s hits “Hard To Say

I’m Sorry” and “You’re The Inspiration", you will share in the joy these songs


The Chicago Experience highlights include performances with:

  • Danny Seraphine, Chicago’s co-founder and original drummer.
  • Bill Champlin, former Chicago member
  • Will Champlin, "The Voice" finalist
  • Dennis Tufano, original lead singer of The Buckinghams.
  • Marty Grebb, Carl Giammarese, Nick Fortuna, The Buckinghams
  • James Guercio, Chicago’s original manager and producer.

Band Members