Chicago cover band — from Russia — comes to Greensburg
Leonid Vorobyev was jogging near his Moscow home four years ago, trying to think of what to get himself for his 60th birthday, when a song got stuck in his head.
It was “Brand New Love Affair” by Chicago, and it gave him an idea. He would start a Chicago cover band.
The idea would eventually earn him and his friends thousands of fans and take them on a national tour across the United States.
“Our audience loves us more than we deserve,” joked Vorobyev, frontman of Chicago cover band Leonid and Friends.
He recounted the story Thursday while on a tour bus in Pittsburgh during a sightseeing trip with the band.
Leonid and Friends will play a free show at 7 p.m. Friday at Greensburg’s St. Clair Park, part of the SummerSounds concert series.
On the bus, the band members chatted in Russian. This is their second trip to the United States. They visited the West End Overlook and the Andy Warhol Museum.
SummerSounds organizer Gene James said he was one of the first Americans to discover the 11-member band.
He watched one of the group’s first videos in 2016 and sent Leonid an email inviting the band to the U.S.
“They had never even played in public, much less gone on a tour,” James said.
It took a few years to make it happen, but James and Vorobyev finally met in person.
“I think it’s a feather in the cap for the city and SummerSounds. I will be the first to admit that I’m not even quite sure how it happened.”
The concert series held a fundraiser to help bring the band here.
James may have been one of the band’s first followers, but he’s far from their only fan. The Leonid and Friends Facebook page has almost 100,000 views, and the group’s YouTube videos have more than 10 million views.
Members of Chicago count themselves among the band’s fans. Danny Seraphine, Chicago’s original drummer, played a few songs with Leonid and Friends at a concert in Los Angeles earlier this year.
Chicago even helped Leonid and Friends find a singer. Vorobyev was looking for someone who could emulate the tricky vocals of Chicago singer Peter Cetera.
Serge Tiagniryadno answered the call by sending in a demo.
“I just sent it in and forgot about it,” he said.
Tiagniryadno lives in Kiev, Ukraine, quite a distance from Moscow. But Vorobyev loved his voice. They worked together from separate studios for months before finally meeting in person.
There’s something special about the music of Chicago, Tiagniryadno said. It straddles several genres, is simple enough to capture listeners’ attention but complex enough to appeal to the most discerning music lovers.
“I think it’s very positive,” he said. “It’s easy to listen to, difficult to play.”
Vorobyev spent decades as a sound engineer. He called in favors from musician friends to recruit them into the band. He was doing it for fun, and he thought Americans would hate it.
Instead, the music video exploded in popularity. It was released in late 2015, and within a few weeks Chicago shared it on their site.
“I was not ready for that, because I did it for myself,” Vorobyev said.
Members of the band say they’ve overwhelmed by their success.
“After it happened, we started to believe in miracles,” said singer and guitarist Vasilii Akimov.
Akimov had always heard it was difficult for a band to make it in America, and is grateful to be one of the exceptions.
Leonid and Friends went on its first U.S. tour in January.
SummerSounds is the second stop on its second tour, which will take them on 22 stops in 13 states.
Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jacob at 724-836-6646, [email protected] or via Twitter .