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Review by Joshua Maloni
Peter Cetera's performance Saturday at Ontario's Fallsview Casino was nothing short of masterful. But with it came an unfortunate realization.
The main takeaway was Cetera's vocal prowess. If you didn't know better, you'd swear he was lip-synching. Surely, a man who's performed around the world for five decades would show some signs of vocal wear and tear. But, in 2015, Cetera, vocally, is as surgically precise as when he joined Chicago in the late 1960s and toured as a solo artist in the 1980s and '90s. It's as if the singer's vocal chords were cryogenically frozen and preserved for future generations to enjoy.
The casino audience was highly entertained with Cetera's set list, which included "Glory of Love" and other solo and duet successes, such as "Restless Heart," "After All," "The Next Time I Fall" and "Even a Fool Can See." He also offered a handful of Chicago songs, including ones he wrote ("You're the Inspiration," "Stay the Night," "If You Leave Me Now") and ones he sang on ("Hard Habit to Break," "25 or 6 to 4").
The Avalon Theatre's 1,000-plus were actively singing, clapping, dancing and, yes, digitally recording throughout two-hour show. Cetera complimented the crowd - and the room - and said he hoped to return, which pleased ticketholders.
Watching Cetera perform live for the first time, I recognized he is a masterful showman - a smooth talker cleverly crafting stories designed to take audiences behind the scenes of his writing process. Often times, he elicited laughs, or surprise (Did you know "Glory of Love," his No. 1 hit from "The Karate Kid, Part II," was originally intended for "Rocky IV"?) Cetera definitely had some irritable edges, shown when he reminded the audience to keep cellphone cameras tucked away and when he sarcastically told "sing this song" chanters to hush up. But, even in those moments, he quickly brought the mood back up, as he shared tales of fatherhood, love and working with Cher, Madonna, David Foster and Amy Grant.
The sour note in all of this, of course, is knowing Chicago - sans Cetera - continues to tour on and perform some of these same songs - tunes Cetera handcrafted and made famous. In our interview Thursday, he was guarded when answering questions about his former musical partners. On stage, he showed no ill will toward the band, which, these days, is a mix of original members and newcomers.
It's undeniably a hard pill to swallow. Chicago's name recognition opens doors to larger venues and bigger paydays. And, yes, its original members - the horn section's Lee Loughnane and James Pankow, in particular - are still dynamite on stage. But, without Cetera, it's not the same Chicago.
Cetera is deserving of more. His talent demands a larger audience and a grander stage. Hopefully, shows like the one he offered at Fallsview will spark a renewed interest worthy of his efforts.
If you haven't seen Cetera perform, make it a point to do so the next time he's on tour.