In ‘Seventies Heaven’

In ‘Seventies Heaven’

By Valeri DeCastris, Music Critic

Having thoroughly enjoyed Darryl Hall and John Oates at the Coronado Theatre last year, I couldn’t pass up the $20 concert ad that beckoned me from the Chicago Reader. Hall and Oates with special guest Todd Rundgren. Could it get any better than the special blend of white funk and soulful pop I’d witnessed here in Rockford? Did I die and go to “Seventies Heaven”? Let’s go again! Driving to the historic Chicago Theater, I thought of how much easier it was for me to drive five minutes from my Rockford home near Maria’s Café to “our” wonder theater, the Coronado. Not to mention my “bargain” $11 parking fee at a Chicago garage! But it’s the big concrete city after all, and one must pay to play. The $2 theater restoration fee included in the ticket prices is a great idea.

Todd Rundgren began a masterful set, playing a mix of old and new. I was delighted to notice that the Chicago Theater’s venue allows people to move about to vacant seats, and there are tables and spaces with lots of dancing and elbow room. Another delight-the ushers allow you to dance in the aisles at this beautiful theater. After a short intermission, Hall and Oates exploded into the second half of the show.

John Oates introduced his new funk solo album. Then came the finale—their one-half hour encore joined by Todd Rundgren. The encore began with Rundgren’s signature “Can’t We Still Be Friends?” and Hall and Oates added their flair to this classic song. The crowd went berserk, and the band couldn’t hide its appreciation. The last song, Sly and the Family Stone’s “Hot Fun in the Summertime,” was pure magic.

We again ventured into the Chicago Theater on a cold blustery Valentine’s Day weekend for another bargain show—The Pretenders for $30—my treat to my husband David. Somehow, I missed seeing this goddess of rock heretofore. Chrissie Hynde was pure unapologetic punk—rough and tumble, in-your-face rock ‘n’ roll and a full two hours of it. Minus makeup and pretenses, wearing safety pins (remember that kick?) and delivering anti-war messages, Chrissie spewed expletives, explosive guitar riffs and harmonica solos with abandon. Four encores later, David remarked that she hadn’t changed a bit in 25 years—so refreshing in this slick, packaged age of lip-synching, bare midriff, blonde lightweights. Tough rock persona aside, her favorite non-profit, PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, figured predominantly in the lobby with a table of literature. She served time in jail in New York for her support of animal rights.

Kudos to Chicago for recognizing the architectural merit of the Chicago Theater. The theater will require quite a bit of renovation to return to its historic grandeur. However, our very own Coronado Theatre beats the Chicago Theater hands down! It’s bigger, even more elegant and ornate, and it has the twinkling stars and a classic organ. We have every reason to be proud of it and every reason for the people of Chicago to venture this way up the Kennedy Expressway to take in its concerts and productions.

Valeri DeCastris is an environmental scientist, activist and a member of the Rockford Jazz Society and other Rockford-area civic organizations.

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