Chicago Theatre Review
Wings over City Winery
Denny Laine – City Winery
Ex-Wing Denny Laine and his band at City Winery Monday night was a must see for any fan of Wings and early Moody Blues. Denny was billed to perform the 1973 classic Band on the Run album in its entirety, unabridged. This should intrigue any fan of the album to see its co-creator perform it. The crowd was made up of people mainly 50 and over which is understandable for a 44 year old album. The guy at my table said to me, “I bet most people don’t know who he is”. I agreed. So who is this Denny Laine?
Denny Laine was an original member of the Moody Blues , singing the band’s first hit “Go Now” in 1964. After a short two year stint with the Moody Blues, Denny quit in 1966, due to the lack of hits and success. He was in various bands until he joined Ginger Baker’s Air Force in 1970, a jazz-rock fusion super group led by drummer Ginger Baker formerly of Cream. They released two albums and had a major tour prior to disbanding. In 1971, Laine was asked by Paul McCartney to help in the formation of his new band Wings. Laine provided lead and rhythm guitars, lead and backing vocals, keyboards, bass guitar and woodwinds, as well as writing and co-writing some of the group’s material. With Wings, Denny played on many successful albums including Red Rose Speedway, Venus and Mars and the band’s 1973 zenith Band on the Run. Denny also took part in one of the most famous tours in rock history in 1975-76: the legendary “Wings over the World” tour. I was one of the lucky souls that saw the North American leg of the tour, known as “Wings over America” at the old Chicago Stadium in June 1976. What a memory. I just saw a Beatle! Denny was a core member of Wings and remained in the band until they broke up in 1981. Since then he’s stayed busy releasing ten solo albums, featured on twelve compilation albums and made many guest appearances on other artist’s albums. Wow!
Denny hit the stage, said hello and immediately the opening synthesizer notes of the song “Band on the Run” began to play. They played every song in order, even playfully stopping to ask the audience “what is next?”
They stayed true to the originals except on the hard edged “Let me Roll It” where Denny let go and played a long solo which worked well in this song. On “No Words” he played another long solo this time in a more classic English Moody Blues sort of way. Another highlight was on “Picasso’s Last Words”. The drummer being from France did the French speaking part of the song. Also the crowd raised their glasses to the “Drink to me drink to my health” part of the song which was a nice touch. On the last song of the album “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five,” Denny and his other band mates traded solos and turned the ending of the song into an all-out jam. A great way to end a great album!
Denny and company played another hour’s worth of music from various periods of his career. The highlights were “Live and Let Die”, “Spirits of Ancient Egypt” and “Time to Hide.”
The crowd hushed as Denny leaned into the microphone and sang 3 words: We’ve already said…..the crowd immediately recognized the classic British Invasion song Go Now and cheered him on as he sang with heartfelt passion. A real show stopper!
He played some old R&B numbers that he used to play with The Moody Blues and closed the show with an amazing harmonica solo that brought the crowd to its feet. The keyboard player announcing over the cheers “Denny Fcking Laine ladies and gentlemen, Denny Fcking Laine”!!
After the show he came out to the lobby to sign wine bottles with the Band on the Run label, as well as various things people brought in. One fan came with his guitar and we brought our copy of Band on the Run. He was gracious and humble when I told him I had seen his concert in 1976 his response, “you aren’t old enough to remember that.” An amazing performer, a true rock legend and City Winery, a perfect place to provide the atmosphere needed for this intimate performance by a true rock legend. Denny Laine.
Reviewed by Terry Giardina