Concert Review: Earth Wind and Fire
Verizon Center, Dallas
October 6, 2013
Now, Then & Forever, the title of recently-released CD by the iconic band Earth, Wind & Fire, also seemed to embody their timeless appeal as live performers, judging from the exuberant response they received from thousands of fans at Dallas's Verizon Center on Sunday night.
After basking in an instant standing ovation, the original three members of the EW&F---bassist Verdine White, percussionist Ralph Johnson and lead vocalist Philip Bailey---launched into "Boogie Wonderland," accompanied by nearly a dozen other players and a digital screen that displayed montages of vintage band photos, album covers and other images that underscored the songs. In addition to the expected staples ("Serpentine Fire," "Shining Star" and "Sing A Song") ...Forever's latest single, "My Promise," was seamlessly worked in and warmly received. "We've got over 42 years of music to share," said Bailey as he pounded on the bongos, "and a lot of it may not have been Top Ten on the charts, but the songs are still Top Ten in our hearts."
And true to his word, the selections performed on stage went deep into party-and-backyard-BBQ-playlist territory, with energetic renditions of "Saturday Nite," "Evil," "Beijo" and even a solo turn by Philip on the kalimba that the band's founder, the now-retired Maurice White, brought to their repertoire and the mainstream. In a night full of many impactful moments, the man known as "The Voice" poignantly delivered "Keep Your Head To The Sky" within the confines of a laser-created pyramid, confidently included another new cut, "Love Is Law" and executed high notes during "Reasons" that were so piercing that the audience shouted as if in the throes of a sermon. Laughing, even Bailey was taken aback at the response: "Whatchu' know about that song?"
As with all consummate bands, the skilled parts factored mightily into the whole experience: Verdine's endless energy was the funk engine that fueled the high-octane numbers ("Let's Groove," Dance Floor"), Ralph Johnson, David Wentworth, and Bailey's own son, Philip Doron, traded verses competently with his famous father, and Gary Bias' searing sax run became the centerpiece of "After The Love Is Gone." And toward the end of their set, before the encores that hastened "Sign On," and "In The Stone", "Gotta Get You Into My Life" signaled the "come together" moment: an invitation by Mr. Bailey to fans to come up and shake hands resulted in over hundreds of them surging to the front, crowding under the stage and reaching for hugs and handshakes from their true-to-life shining stars.
By Melody Charles