Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Jim Peterik and Carl Giammarese Unplugged at the Genesee Theatre - Two New Videos

With everyone ready to return to entertainment as part of their "normal" lives each weekend in Chicago, the Genesee Street Cabaret offered trial programming to gauge the popularity of a safe, new way to enjoy live music. On May 1, 2021, they'd planned for a 6pm show for audiences to enjoy an acoustic evening with two classic rock favorites, Jim Peterik and Carl Giammarese, who are multifaceted professionals.

Peterik, of course, is a founding member of The Ides of March, a talented songwriter, as well as a jingle composer. His 1970 song, “Vehicle” found its way up to #2 on the Billboard charts as just one example.

Jim continues to be the pride of Berwyn, where he grew up. Beyond their legendary band of guys (The Ides) who’ve been as close as brothers through the years, Jim has also achieved national distinction and acclaim. He cowrote songs such as “Eye of the Tiger” and “High on You” with Frankie Sullivan for the band Survivor and “Hold on Loosely” with Don Barnes and Jeff Carlisi for 38 Special. Those are just a few of his hits.

Peterik has performed these songs in concert with these bands as well as in concert in his other musical collaborations. Jim is also noted for finding and showcasing new talent for audiences in presentations such as Pride of Lions, a “melodic rock” band; Jim Peterik’s Lifeforce, a “smooth-jazz project” and “an all-star cast” as World Stage.

Giammarese is a founding member of The Buckinghams, who broke out of Chicago basements into the #1 spot of the Billboard charts with “Kind of a Drag,” written by Chicago native, James Holvay. Holvay would go on to find national acclaim with his band “The MOB” and his compositions with Gary Beisbier would help propel The Buckinghams into positions as Billboard's "Most Listened to Band in America" for 1967. Similarly, they were named "Most Promising Vocal Group of 1967" by CashBox Magazine. Songs and their arrangements are the means by which a good musical group becomes a legendary musical icon.

After the first version of The Buckinghams concluded after reigning at the top of the Billboard charts, 1965–1970 they’d amassed 15 singles, 8 albums, and songs that are still in demand in concert today. For four decades since reforming, The Buckinghams continue to expand their national presence on tours including the Happy Together Tour, the Flower Power Cruise, Concerts at Sea, and other package shows. Meanwhile, contemporary band members are woodshedding in their garages or basements, hoping to get a song on the radio. The competition for audiences is tough today, and classic rock will draw a crowd, even when younger audiences seem to be following a different interest path. You'll often find three generations of fans.

From 1970-1977, Carl Giammarese and Dennis Tufano, former lead singer of The Buckinghams, were a contemporary rock duo, hoping to catch the same wind of good fortune as other duos, such as Simon and Garfunkel, Loggins & Messina, England Dan & John Ford Coley, or Seals & Crofts, but it was not to be. After 3 albums, the duo went their own ways.

In 1982, after 2 years of successful, occasional reunion concerts with Tufano, two founding members of The Buckinghams, Carl Giammarese and Nick Fortuna, hired three great musicians and have been touring nonstop for 39 years now, bringing classic rock to audiences with the same joy for performing that Jim Peterik and team have.

Today, the Ides of March continue with Jim Peterik, Guitar; Larry Millas, Guitar; Bob Bergland, Bass; and Mike Borch, Drums — the originals have remained together plus Scott May, Keyboards; Tim Bales, Trumpet; Henry Salgado, Trombone; and Steve Eisen, Saxophone.

Chicago folks can recite all this history by heart of course, but when you put these two performers onstage, their experience and versatility become magic when mixed together. They often perform concerts together, each with their full bands.

But thanks to COVID-19, all full-band events went on hiatus for over a year and are finally opening back up at a very gradual pace. A wise producer saw the success of unplugged concerts, with the principal voices coming together for a wonderful acoustic evening of stories and songs, first presented as two separate acts and then joining together at the end for a rousing encore. A stage-based slideshow by John Dykas complimented the stories the singers told.

Carl was most ably accompanied by longtime Buckinghams’ keyboardist Bruce Soboroff and Jim was accompanied by skilled multi-instrumentalist, Colin Peterik. Chicago music writer and reviewer Kent Kotal noted “great trade-off vocals between Carl and Jim), on “Kind of a Drag,” “Eye of the Tiger,” and “Vehicle.” He also said “’Susan,’ my all-time favorite song by The Bucks….and quite a complicated one at that when it comes to effects and vocals sounded great, even in its stripped down form.”

Kotal added: "I got the impression that Carl and Jim may do a few more of these “up close and personal” shows in the future … (I swear, Peterik would put every bit as much effort into performing a private show for two in your living room … the guy just LIVES to entertain!)" To read Kent Kotal’s full review, visit here.

The Genesee Street Cabaret has proved to be an innovative new venue, perfect for welcoming small crowds to allow social distancing. When the 6pm May 1 show with Peterik and Giammarese was announced, it sold out the first day. A second show at 8:30pm was added and promptly sold out as well. If you missed their first concert evening, perhaps more will be added in the future.

In the meantime, here are two YouTubes to enjoy from their performances that night. They are great arrangements and two songs you might never have guessed you’d hear this way. Thanks to John Dykas for graphics and video contributions.

First, here is "Eye of the Tiger" with dual voices and guitars by Jim and Carl, with Colin Peterik on keys.

And here are Carl and Jim on "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" with Bruce Soboroff on keys.

As much as we love our classic rock songs the way we first heard them on the radio, it is also wonderful to hear them in new ways as envisioned by those who love the songs the most. Stay tuned to social media to learn if new intimate gatherings concerts are being scheduled.