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Cetera performs the old hits, some tribute songs, et cetera

Saturday was the midpoint of the three-day-long Polish Heritage Festival, and there were plenty of Pole-centric activities to revel in. There were polka bands playing, pierogi cooking, beer being imbibed, Polish Tatra Sheepdogs showing off their gleaming white coats, and an abundance of Polish arts and crafts to be found. It was all great fun.

The capper for the day was a concert by Peter Cetera, the former bass player for Chicago who wrote and sang on many of that band's hits before leaving for a solo career. Since Cetera is a bona fide pop star, albeit one whose days as a chart topper are probably in the past, it made perfect sense to book him for a gig at the festival, especially since his father was of Polish descent.

Cetera sang along with his backup band, the Baad Daddies, and a 42-piece orchestra (drawn from the Western New York's talent pool) under the direction of Chicago Pops conductor Arnie Roth. The results were mostly high-gloss renditions of the singer's hits done with the kind of panache that wouldn't be out of place in Las Vegas or Branson.

This was not a bad thing, and, in many cases, it was really quite a good thing. Cetera's voice is one of the most recognizable instruments in pop music, eloquent when laying down the melody line and earnest yet companionable when heard in a duet format.

The latter set of qualities was evidenced by his work with former Amy Grant backup singer Kim Keyes in tunes like "After All," "Feels Like Heaven," and "The Next Time I Fall in Love," where both singers unleashed a most enjoyable blend of pop power and subtlety. Keyes also gave plenty of proof that she is an amazing singer well deserving of a solo career.

While most of Cetera's set list included such hits as "You're the Inspiration," "Baby What a Big Surprise," and "If You Leave Me Now," it also included a pair of tunes by the Beatles ("Lady Madonna," where guitarist/backup vocalist Gene Miller sang lead and "Yesterday") and a cut from ABBA ("S.O.S."), a group that Cetera called one of his favorites.

Today is the last day for the Polish Heritage Festival. While Cetera won't be closing out the program, there will be music from Grammy-nominated guitarist Mike Smiarowski, polka stalwarts Jerry Darlak and the Touch along with a stage show by Patty Waszak, a singer/musician who performs on more than 30 instruments.

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