It's over 40 years since their heyday, but the Chi-Lites continue to bring their sweet soul harmonies to audiences around the world, even though there is now only one original, Marshall Thompson - the 'Last Man Standing', the name of his recent autobiography - still in the group. Last night they appeared at the Clapham Grand and the newer members, including Fred Simon and Tara Thompson, sounded exactly like their hit-making forebears. Dressed in snazzy lime green suits, contrasting with Marshall's darker green suit, and white hats, they looked the part as well.
Marshall, whose career goes back to 1959 with the formation of the Hi-Lites, as they were then called before changing their name to reflect their home town of Chicago, suffered a stroke last year and sat throughout the set, but his voice is still strong, as he showed when he took the lead on Homely Girl and in the spoken intro to Have You Seen Her. The other members shared vocal duties on most of the other numbers in this short, but enjoyable set.
The group began with the rousing (For God's Sake) Give More Power To the People, and continued with It's Time For Love, I Found Sunshine, Stoned Out Of My Mind and Hold On To Your Dreams, before getting the audience going with Homely Girl. Next it was their big hit from 1972 Oh Girl, before tackling their biggest hit Have You Seen Her with some beautiful harmonies. The show then disintegrated somewhat when they invited four men to come on stage. About eight did so, plus a couple of women, and their strangled singing attempts were pretty pathetic and really rather a waste of time - but the crowd enjoyed it.
Finally, the group sang their 1974 UK hit Too Good To Be Forgotten - as indeed the Chi-Lites are, even if their line up has changed many times over the years, with only Marshall Thompson, literally the last man standing (or sitting) given them a link to past glories. In terms of value for money the show did not rate highly, as they were on stage for less than an hour (part of which was taken up with the audience participation section), but they certainly looked and sounded the part.
Words and photos by Nick Cobban