Powerhouse’s Chicago tribute set to make us smile at Peterborough Musicfest

Eight-member outfit returns to Del Crary Park on Canada Day to pay homage to the legendary horn band

Hamilton band Powerhouse brings “Chicago Transit”, their tribute to the iconic horn-based rock band Chicago, to Peterborough Musicfest for a special Canada Day evening show
Hamilton band Powerhouse brings “Chicago Transit”, their tribute to the iconic horn-based rock band Chicago, to Peterborough Musicfest for a special Canada Day evening show

Some things just belong together. Peanut butter and jam comes to mind quickly. And then there’s a driving rhythmic backbeat combined with the soaring power of brass instruments being played in perfect unison.

In 1967, when the band Chicago formed under its original name Chicago Transit Authority, that combination gave the world a uniquely fresh sound that gave birth to a rock music juggernaut that would sell more than 100 million records and earn a firm place in the turbulent music history of the 1970s into the next decade.

So it was that in 1986, when a collection of Hamilton-based musicians formed a band to pay tribute to the infectious sound of the horn bands of the 1960s, it was inevitable that Chicago’s music would eventually garner their attention. Thirty years on, Powerhouse remains a musical tour de force, having performed well more than 1,000 concerts.

On Friday, July 1st at Del Crary Park, the eight-member outfit will return to the Fred Anderson Stage for the first time since 2012, headlining Peterborough Musicfest’s annual Canada Day concert with “Chicago Transit”, the band’s tribute show to Chicago. Admission is free to the 8 p.m. concert.

Led by longest-serving band member Carlo Di Battista (trumpet/flugelhorn/vocals), Powerhouse’s Chicago Transit will serve up a number of Chicago’s signature hits such as “Make Me Smile”, “Colour My World”, “Old Days”, “25 Or 6 To 4” and “Saturday In the Park”. But don’t be fooled by the latter. It will be Friday in the park on the first of July, but with Canada’s birthday celebrations well under way a Saturday feel will undoubtedly be in the air.

It wasn’t until the early 1990s that Powerhouse focused its attention in earnest on Chicago’s music — the first band in the world to do so. Many have followed, but Di Battista’s crew remains first out of gate — even earning credit from Chicago itself.

With five lead singers, a three-piece horn section and the intricate horn arrangements penned by trombonist Dan Elliott, the band struck out, performing in venues and at festivals across North America. In 2006, Powerhouse took its equally spot-on tribute to the music of Rod Stewart featuring Dave Battah to Portugal and the Azores.

In another manifestation, Powerhouse (with classically trained singer Paula Tessaro up front), also pays musical homage to soul/R&B legends such as Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight and Patti LaBelle.

Joining Tessaro, Di Battista and Elliott for the Peterborough show are Nick D’Amico (saxophone/flute), Steve King (guitar/vocals), Pete Crolly (bass/vocals), John Persichini (drums/vocals) and Don Berryman (synthesizer/mandolin). Berryman, originally a trombonist with the band over the years, is the last of Powerhouse’s three founding members still with the group.

Powerhouse will be well warmed up for its Musicfest gig, performing in Peterborough just six hours after headlining Canada Day celebrations in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

Chicago, meanwhile, remains together close to 50 years after forming. With 24 studio albums and a 1976 Grammy Award for If You Leave Me Now, the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame just this past April. Chicago remains second only to The Beach Boys for Billboard singles and albums chart success enjoyed by American bands.

“Beginnings” – Powerhouse: Chicago Transit

Promo – Powerhouse: Motown / Soul Revue

The July 1st concert is sponsored by Kawartha Cardiology Clinic, Ricky’s All Day Grill, Collins Barrow Kawarthas LLP and Enbridge.

Peterborough Musicfest is presenting 19 free-admission concerts during its milestone 30th anniversary season — each staged Wednesday and Saturday nights with the exception of this Canada Day concert.

Overseen by general manager Tracey Randall and staff, a board of directors, and numerous volunteers, Peterborough Musicfest’s stated mission is to “provide diverse, affordable live music to enrich cultural and economic prosperity in our community.”

For more information on this concert and/or the 2016 season, visit www.ptbomusicfest.ca or phone the Peterborough Musicfest office at 705-755-1111.

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Paul Rellinger
Paul Rellinger a.k.a Relly is an award-winning journalist and longtime former newspaper editor still searching for the perfect lead. When he's not putting pen to paper, Paul is on a sincere but woefully futile quest to own every postage stamp ever issued. A rabid reader of history, Paul claims to know who killed JFK but can't say out of fear for the safety of his oh so supportive wife Mary, his three wonderful kids and his three spirited grandchildren. Paul counts among his passions Peterborough's rich live music scene, the Toronto Maple Leafs, slopitch and retrieving golf balls from the woods. You can follow Paul on Twitter at @rellywrites.