Variety spices up and drags down WTTW concert

Chicago Tribune
Howard Reich, Tribune arts critic
Aug 22, 2005

Gospel singers thundered, Broadway divas belted, jazz musicians swung freely and a rock star took on Gershwin (Gershwin lost).

Though these far-flung musical styles rarely converge on the same stage, they did Saturday night at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park to mark the 50th anniversary of a Chicago institution that richly deserved the homage: WTTW-Ch. 11.

In a concert broadcast live on Ch. 11 and WFMT-FM 98.7 radio, musicians great, near-great and trying-harder produced a sometimes touching, sometimes rocky tour of music made in Chicago. To its credit, the golden-anniversary party offered more highs than lows, though the occasional craters were hard to miss.

But first the triumphs: With the glorious Liberty Baptist Church Choirs smoldering behind him, Otis Clay breathed fire, singing “When All God’s Children Get Together.” If you’d closed your eyes, you might have thought you were in church on Sunday morning, wave upon wave of glorious sound sweeping across the crowd — or was it a congregation?

As Clay shouted his incantations and the choristers answered in kind, the audience joined in, clapping on the offbeats, stomping feet to the concrete, offering up spontaneous “amens.” In these indelible moments, a mass of humanity — various races and ages and demographics — came together in a visceral way that doesn’t happen often enough.

(Copyright 2005 by the Chicago Tribune)

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