When rising rock stars came to Calihan

In honor of its approaching 2018 centennial, The Varsity News is occasionally running stories from its archives. This issue’s installment includes three reviews of concerts by what were then up-and-coming musical acts that appeared at Calihan Hall between the late 1960s and early 1970s.



Elton different but not unique



The Varsity News / April 20, 1971


Occasionally one comes across a concert that raises more controversy than Agnew.

Elton John’s was one of them.

Flashing on stage in a bright red jumpsuit and white buck clod-hoppers, he immediately turned half the audience off.

The other half couldn’t have been happier.

His music was equally as varied.

Starting with his “old” standards like “Your Song” and “Friends,” he made a fast right face and suddenly finished with something resembling a rock and roll revival.

He is certainly a dynamic performer, but considering that Hitler was too that doesn’t mean much.

He pounded rather than played the piano and his drummer didn’t need all of his 14 drums, even though he very noticeably used them.

Elton John is a singer who is different, but hardly unique. Although his approach may be somewhat severe, it does nothing for his music, which has enough trouble just standing up on its own.

Individually, his songs are alright, but when you’ve got a concert full of them, they’re boring.

If you’ve got the music down pat, stage antics are fine.

Well, Elton’s manager should either send him to a music or dancing school, because besides having trouble with both, he can’t combine them.

In this case, he shouldn’t try. He comes off as a serious commentator on a variety of emotions on his albums but his stage image is a blunt opposite of the Elton John previously mentioned. Therefore, he’s hype or he’s flipped his wig, which almost happened in concert.

The group which opened the show, The Mark Almond Band, are highly sophisticated musicians dealing in jazz/blues. But keeping pace with the “star” they too had problems – the kind you can correct.

Even though the sound they were getting into was sharp (a combination of Miles Davis and Santana), their equipment was poor and the audience really could not latch hold of what they were playing until the group pulled a traditional ten-minute drum solo, an old trick to save any rock performance.



Folk-rock delights all



The Varsity News / Jan. 17, 1967


Sunday night the audience of Town and Gown went “homeward bound” a little richer.

Simon and Garfunkel’s first appearance at U-D and in the Detroit area was an impressive one. The two young men were ushered on stage by a roar of enthusiastic admirers.

No one group totally constituted the audience. Teens as well as adults, U-D students and guests were apparently equally excited to see Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel.

The audience continued to cheer the sweater-clad singers while the first notes of their songs rang through the Memorial Building.

Simon emceed the first half of the show, adding interest to each individual number. Yet nothing that he said or did could outshine his experienced guitar playing.

The many “sounds of silence” shouted their meaning as Simon and Garfunkel sang the moods of life with melody, harmony and style in numbers such as “A Hazy Shade of Winter” and “Cloudy.”

Relevant to U-D student life in an urban university were selections such as “A Poem on the Underground Wall” and “The Sound of Silence.”

The second part of the show topped the first in both performance and reception. The audience showered approval several times as Paul and Art began the chords of “For Emily,” “I Am a Rock” and “Color,” among others.





Chicago brassy



The Varsity News / Feb. 9, 1971


Chicago is both a windy city but also a clamorous group. Both the wind and the group were here Friday night and the group played before a house record of almost 10,000 rock fans.

Attendance surpassed the previous record set last year by the Fifth Dimension.

The only problem was that many of them left the three-and-a-half hour concert disappointed. Fans who had not followed Chicago from their inception missed hearing the radio hits.

Most of the songs were cuts from their first album, the organized chaos that made Chicago and that Chicago made, or previews of their brand new third album.

Most of the audience, especially during the second half of the concert, were either bored or just plain tired of the same sound over and over again. Listeners were constantly yelling for “25 or Six to Four” and “I’m a Man,” the two popular songs they didn’t play.

The loudest ovations, none too loud for the audience which poured over into all the aisles and in front of the stage, came at the intermission after “Make Me Smile,” which left a sweet taste in the mouth of even a nonbeliever, and after another hit, “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?”

During the rest of the concert, each musician constantly proved himself to be fairly versatile with his instrument.

As a matter of fact, they seemed to be competing with each other because there was a constant competition between each musician as to who could be dominant.

The brass sound of Chicago seemed overpowering, even over the organ, which constantly blared out, interrupting the playing. The concert came to sound almost like a rehearsal session.

But then this is a legitimate operation for the group, since they started the sound of no sound, the violent music. And they have become masters of it. No one else can blend such violent music and so many decibels to produce what sometimes comes out with such tenderness.

The poor audience response was because Chicago went onto the airwaves in the last year and gained much of their following on this kind of music, which they don’t often do and which is almost absent from their albums.

The consequence was that many fans were disappointed while only the Chicago fans from way back had full enjoyment of the music.

Another disappointment came when one musician got sick and the scheduled encore was cancelled over the protest of many veteran followers.