We checked into our hotel and headed out early for Ravinia…or so we thought. Cook County Road was packed with cars at 4:45pm. Show time was 7:30pm. What’s going on? Lawn seating! When we arrived about 5:15 (traveling the 2 miles from the hotel to Ravinia west parking lot) and the grounds were packed with people--little tables, tablecloths, wine bottles, crystal, floral arrangements, gourmet food, you name it. These folks know how to dine.
The pavilion opened at 7pm and K and I took our seats 6 rows from the back on the left side. Even as far back as we were, these were nice seats. Security told us the pavilion seats 3,400 and that management never says how many lawn “seats” are sold. I guessed 10-12 thousand were dining. Nobody was in a rush to be seated and the pavilion was damn near empty until Blondie took the stage. I wandered up front to check out the stage. I could see the necks of about 12 guitars on stage right behind some equipment. It looked like 7 for Elliot and 5 for Todd? The set lists for each band were duct taped to the floor next to the microphone stands. The set lists were the same as those reported by Wendy at Grand Prairie except “Shayla” and “Union City Blue” replaced “Pretty Baby” in the Blondie set (the unknown Blondie tune is “Maria”).
Blondie opened at 7:30 and people started taking their seats. I took advantage of the chaos to walk past the ushers and take a seat in the 4th row for the first few tunes. Chris Stein has an unusual guitar technique. He finger picks and had picks on his thumb and first 2 fingers. He hardly moves his right hand at all. For that matter, he hardly moves at all (Chris did stick his guitar in the air at the end of the set). Everybody but Deborah wore black—she wore lime green and purple (who knew?). Deb and Clem Burke were easily the most interesting to watch. Clem just pounded on the drums and Deborah employed subtle, sexy, dance movements onstage. Two songs into the set Clem removed the black to reveal a red T-shirt. The better to be seen I guess. To my ear, the first half of the Blondie set was good but really took off during “The Tide is High” when the band inserted some nice improv (it was the first tune that didn’t sound exactly like the records). Fans were dancing most of the last half of the set.
The New Cars roared through the first three tunes of their set. Everybody in the house was standing and clapping. I was impressed by the great stage design, lighting, excellent sound, and the energy of the band and audience. I haven’t been to a show like this in a long time. Ocasek’s Cars tunes are classic pop. I never had any cars albums and even I knew the words. The New Cars set was just fun, fun, fun. An early highlight was ISTL where Elliot and Todd end the song with a beautiful wailing guitar duet. Todd introduced “Black Maria” with something like “Let’s suspend disbelief and go back to a simpler time.” The band then kicked into a gut-wrenching version of one of my favorite TR tunes. With the first few heavy bars, everybody in the house (except Lani) sat down and got a head full of electric Todd. Foamy never sounded so good. Todd simply wailed. It was breathtaking. As the last symbol crash echoed through the pavilion, cheering Todd fans exploded to their feet (everyone else was dumbstuck, seated, and bug eyed!) There’s no talking through THAT tune!
I was really looking forward to hearing Kasim sing “Drive” and I have to report that, to my ear, he didn’t quite nail it at Ravinia. After listening to his great version on It’s Alive I think Kasim was experimenting with his delivery. But what do I know?
I will definitely try and catch this show again on the 2nd leg. It’s just fun, fun, fun.