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Clubland: Summer on the brain - Chicago, Yes scheduled for Mountain Park concerts


Recent gloriously sunny days had me walking around with Biz Markie in my head crooning, “It’s spring again,” but summer’s been on the brain since the first two Mountain Park concerts of the 2013 season were recently announced.

Both shows feature acts who’ve been around since the late-e_SSRq60s and keep on going, no matter how many countless lineup changes they churn through: Chicago and Yes.

If you’ve got a big nostalgic heart, those b(r)and names probably make you smile — I had my own memorable e_SSRq80s summer where I investigated the back catalog of both of those classic rock outfits (who’d just put out big hit albums of new material), so I’m a softie for ’em.

Chicago, which still includes original members Robert Lamm on keyboards and vocals, Lee Loughnane on trumpet and James Pankow on trombone, are on the road embracing all angles of their musical personality. They tip their hat to the way-back with early years radio staples like “Saturday in the Park” and “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is,” play extended jams like the full 13-minute suite “Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon” (which contained the hits “Make Me Smile” and “Color My World” along with sharp interludes starring the horn section), resurrect deep cuts (the late-e_SSRq70s disco-style “Street Player”) and of course break out the huge Peter Cetera-era smashes such as “Hard Habit to Break.”

The rest of the current touring band is Jason Scheff on bass and vocals, Lou Pardini on keyboards and vocals, Keith Howland on guitar, Tris Imboden on drums and Drew Hester on percussion.

It will be a Friday in the Park when Chicago climbs onto the scenic spot’s outdoor stage on June 21 at 8 p.m.

Yes has always held a special place in my LP-filled heart — their symphonic and soulful prog rock has genuine beauty and spark even on critically maligned albums like “Tormato” and “Drama,” or at shows with sagging energy levels, or performed without original member and cosmic center Jon Anderson on unmistakable (and unmimic-able) vocals.

Anderson and his trademark high clear voice have been gone from the band for nearly a decade, though a 2008 tour was planned — and canceled when the singer was hit with acute respiratory failure. The other Yes men continued on, hiring Benoit David, lead vocalist for a Montreal-based Yes tribute band. They toured and made a new album (“Fly From Here”).

When the David-led version of Yes came to town in February 2010, the tempos were on the sluggish side but original members Chris Squire on bass and especially Steve Howe on guitar were musically strong; Howe was a scientist of sound on stage right, with spindly, exacting solos and a look of intense concentration as roadies ran around him to get his next guitar ready.

David is now gone — strangely he also ended up suffering from respiratory failure — and he’s since been replaced by Jon Davison (from Glass Hammer, a prog rock band based in Chattanooga, Tenn.), who has little trouble hitting Jon Anderson’s highest of high notes but doesn’t seem particularly at ease in the center of it all (and how could anyone except Anderson, really).

The big news is that the current lineup of Yes — Squire, Howe, Davison, drummer Alan White and keyboardist Geoff Downes — is touring the world with a show that has them performing the entirety of three of their strongest albums: “The Yes Album” (1971), “Close to the Edge” (1972) and “Going For the One” (1977). The group’s New York City show earlier this week sold out.

The band may never regain the sprightly step it once had, but Yes wrote some richly colorful epics over the years, and that melodic magic will forever be there in songs like “Starship Trooper,” “Siberian Khatru” and “Awaken” (and it’s always a joy to hear the quirky boogie “Going for the One”).

Yes brings its progressive mega-hits to Mountain Park on Saturday, July 27, at 8 p.m.

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