|July 29, 2012|
Review By: Pat Cook
Earth, Wind & Fire… Still Shining Stars
Oh, Yeah! Earth, Wind & Fire returns to San Diego…and it all went down at Humphrey’s By The Bay on Shelter Island Sunday night – July 29, 2012. This band needs no introduction. I think we all know the story - the award winning band was originally founded in Chicago by Maurice White in 1969. Since then they have gone on to receive numerous awards and honors - far too many to mention here. Other members have included Larry Dunn and Al McKay, and original members, Philip Bailey, Verdine White and Ralph Johnson still deliver an unbelievable energetic, virtuosic performance to sold-out crowds internationally.
Earth, Wind & Fire, one of the most successful and critically acclaimed bands of the twentieth century is in my city and this time, I won’t miss out!
Its 4:57 p.m. – I arrive way ahead of time and I’m eagerly anticipating the start of a show that I’ve been planning to attend for a solid year. I have all camera equipment primed and I am ready! Being a fan since the late 70’s has something to do with this mission I’ve been on. Like many of you, Earth, Wind & Fire’s music is weaved into the chords of my history and the intro to a particular song associated with particular seasons of my life can trigger a very vivid and very powerful memory. And I can close my eyes and recant the exact frame in time.
My introduction to EWF, initially, was involuntary. My older step-brothers brought their albums home and they dictated musical selection in early years – especially when our parents weren’t home. How or when we first heard EWF is not altogether relevant. The important thing is that the music stayed with us. It had then, and still today, the ability to help us "Get Away"; it gave us "Reasons" to love and it ministered to us and made us feel like a "Shining Star."
Now, 5:49 p.m. – just about two more hours ‘til show time, however, a party has already begun brewing in the bay along the pier. Boats, kayaks, canoes…even a customized surfboard catamaran line the pier outside of the venue. Trays of veggies, cheese and wine are passed among the community of water travelers hoping to catch a glimpse of the renowned group - but will no doubt, be able to hear every chord played and melody sung.
7:22 p.m. and the enchanted outdoor venue fills with excitement as fans fill seats. High-reaching palm trees rim the stage, the air is cool, the sky is blue and the sun is setting on the bay.
Finally, it’s show time! No opening act! The elements known as Earth, Wind & Fire take the stage and the suave demeanor of the audience can no longer be contained. Let’s face it… designer wear and jewels don’t stand a chance against the tonality and groove carried in the harmonic intro to Devotion – which the group opened with. I’m inwardly pinching myself, looking up on stage, as I’m standing at the feet of Verdine White. Camera in hand, but captivated by what he does on that bass! He looks down into my eyes, flashes that electric smile, winks and mouths the words, “Hey, baby!” I blushingly wink back and get back to work. Then the gloves come off and EWF continue to rouse the audience, delivering hit after hit for nearly two hours. "Kalimba Tree," "Fantasy," "Shining Star," "Let’s Groove," "September"… and Philip Bailey’s falsetto, still clear and powerful, lulls us with songs like "After the Love Has Gone" and "Reasons." At one point, I’m entranced, absolutely in awe, but manage to pull myself together to snap a shot of Philip playing the kalimba (African thumb piano) and it’s such a purely magical moment to behold. With the Kalimba, the anharmonic overtones die away rapidly, so their effect is only heard at the instant the note starts. So we’re instantly pierced by the first note, anticipating the rapid subsequent tone.
Two hours are gone far too soon, the ending is spectacular and the “Elements” prepare to join fans who have purchased passes to have a photo shoot with the group (proceeds from photo op support the “Music Is Unity” foundation, founded by Philip Bailey in 2007, in support of keeping instruments in schools). With smoke now cleared, instruments packed away, costumes off - these men emerge, blending in with the crowd and dressed like everyone else and my first thought is, “Wow! – They’re just people.” But, "That’s The Way Of The World" – we’re just people…appreciating the gifts and contributions of people.
Many thanks to Earth, Wind & Fire for their rich contribution to our lives, and ultimately, to the world.
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