August 25, 2006

Earth Wind & Fire’s stars shine bright at Viejas

By Francisco H. Ciriza

Earth Wind & Fire’s concert at Viejas’s outdoor venue this past Tuesday August 22 was as close as one can to the perfect live music experience. A sizable crowd, a gorgeous and comfortable setting, some impressive musicianship and showmanship from both the headline and opening acts all added up to a memorable evening for fans.

The crowd, made up of mostly long-time fans from the group’s emergence in the 70’s and highly successful years in the 80’s, was surprisingly heavily Latino (at least 1/3 by this writer’s estimate) and sprinkled with some youngsters, to boot. Enthusiastic from the moment the house lights went down to signal the start of the show and throughout the hit-filled set, fans many time rose to their feet to offer boisterous applause and cheers.

Earth Wind & Fire as formed in 1969 when Maurice White left the Ramsey Lewis Trio in order to start his own band. Driven to combine a plethora of styles including funk, jazz, soul, rock, and pop, White tinkered with various line-ups before coming up with the group that broke the big time with songs like “Shining Star” and “Best of My Love” among many others.

Longtime members Ralph Johnson (percussion/vocals), Philip Bailey (percussion/vocals), and original bassist Verdine White led the ensemble of talented players and singers through a power-packed set of hits represents the group’s 30-plus years of infectious and highly spiritual music. Bailey wowed the crowd with his impressive vocal range and ability to bring the crowd in as a true part of the concert, but it was White, brother of Earth Wind & Fire’s founder, Maurice White, who stole the show. His highly energetic delivery and profound playing, White is a classically trained musician, served as a true impetus for taking the show another level.

Fans were left standing in a rush of enthusiastic applause as the group left the stage after the encore with dance moves left in their body and smiles etched on their faces. Many people were overheard expressing their impressions of such an exciting and well-played concert. Some wondered aloud about the band’s future especially in terms of continued touring and future releases of new material.

Backstage, the band met with a huge number of family and friends. The excitement carried on for more than an hour after the final note was played. Johnson, White, and other Earth Wind & Fire band members mingled with the often star-struck folks. Camera flashes, laughs, and hugs were plenty and there seemed to be no rush to end the night, although the group’s tour bus’s engines were revving, ready to take the group to northern California for a show in concord the following night.

It’s hard to believe this legendary and highly influential musical phenomenon is still doing what it does. Tuesday’s show was a success on all fronts. Fans, talent buyers, and promoters alike would be wise to continue supporting these fine artists and individuals.

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