Two Bands – Four Decades of Great Music at Bethel Woods

Written by on June 30, 2008

When the brains behind the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts decided to create their courtyards, pavilion and all-around atmosphere, they likely had the June 29th Doobie Brothers/Chicago concert in mind; it seemed to have been made for such a performance.
These great rock music innovators teamed up to tour this year and the Sullivan County landmark showed them a packed crowd of fans from three generations. Heavy rains could not keep the die-hard fans from watching Chicago’s set (it was mainly dry when the Doobies were on) from the lawn, protecting themselves from the elements with some light raingear they brought by wearing plastic bags provided by the good people at Bethel Woods.

Photo by Elizabeth Lunch

Watching the double-headliners was a true lesson in on-stage contrast: The Doobie Brothers were loose and looked like they were having fun as they moved around the stage, sometimes lining up together moving their instruments in a mildly-synchronized fashion and encouraging the crowd to sing with them. Chicago was all business when they hit the stage. These guys just came on and played, yet they were every bit as captivating to watch as the more free-wheeling Doobies.

Photo by Elizabeth Lynch<

As for the packed crowd, they served as a testament to two bands who would never let trends dictate their style (we’ll give Chicago a mulligan for “Look Away” on Revenge of the 80s).

Some of the most notable parts of the Doobie Brothers’ performance were their always-inspiring “Jesus Is Just Alright With Me,” and acoustic guitar duet by Patrick Simmons and John McFee, a great rendition of the oldie “Little Bitty Pretty One” and back to their own music and into “Black Water” and “China Grove,” when the fans got involved in the singing. I was looking around to see if Al Dunbar tried to sneak in and bootleg the concert, but I guess he knows better now.

Photo by Elizabeth Lynch
Photo by Elizabeth Lynch

Chicago immediately took to the stage by featuring its classic horn section which, sadly, was missing through their 80s hits. The signature jazz-rock rhythms and shared singing parts that defined the band since the beginning were the focal point of their set. While they were nice enough to pas along the NWS severe weather warning, their fans didn’t care — form the driving horns in the opening songs to the mellow “Color My World” to “If You Leave Me Now” into the bands mega-hits toward the end, the band named for the “Windy City” made the fans forget about the “Rainy and Windy country.”

Photo by Elizabeth Lynch
Photo by Elizabeth Lynch

As an 80s radio show, we can not underscore the importance of these two great groups in overall music history. Both scored several hits in the 80s (The Doobies more so in the early part of the decade and Chicago in the middle), but it was that both kept a high degree of musical integrity when they went into the studio with low regard for the “glitz and glam” that hurt rock music in the 1980s. One might argue that bands like the Doobies, Chicago, the Rolling Stones shielded Classic Rock from the “Hair Bands” that poisoned the mainstream radio stations of the time.

Photo by Elizabeth Lynch<

Also, credit should also go to the staff at Bethel Woods for being able to manage the large crowd as they were invited to the pavilion for shelter and help those who remained on the lawn shield themselves from the hefty rains. The fans, also, were very respectful of he grounds and there was virtually no litter to be seen during the show.

Information of future concerts in the Chicago/Doobie Brothers 2008 tour can be found here.

Information on upcoming shows at Bethel Woods can be found on their website, as well as hours for their recently-opened Woodstock museum.

Photo by Elizabeth Lynch
Photo by Elizabeth Lynch< Photos by Elizabeth Lynch

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