I did not go to church on Sunday. (Well, as least not in the traditional sense.)
The church service I attended was at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino near Hollywood, and the ministers of music were Earth, Wind & Fire.
In a show that was flawlessly executed, one of the most beloved groups in American music history on Sunday, June 27, took a sold-out crowd on a magical trip down memory lane. The memories included positively uplifting melodies buoyed by stellar musicianship and meaningful lyrics.
Oh, the lyrics! Motivational workshops could be created with EWF lyrics as the foundation.
Consider this unforgettable refrain: “You’re a shining star, no matter who you are! Shining bright to see, who you can truly be!”
EWF founder and original band member Maurice White told Newsweek magazine many years ago that he wanted to create a library of music “that would stand the test of time.”
Mission accomplished. EWF’s music is timeless; as relevant today as when it was first produced.
From the moment they burst onto the stage Sunday night, until the final note was played, EWF kept the audience spellbound, moving from hit to hit in a nostalgic evening of beautiful music temporarily sheltered from oil spills, wars and messy tea parties.
Sunday’s show was all about the music. The band performed for at least half an hour before lead singer Phillip Bailey spoke a word.
Bringing the beautifully diverse audience to its feet with “Boogie Wonderland,” EWF jammed for about an hour and a half with
crowd favorites, “Jupiter,” “Get Away,” “September,” “Devotion,” “Singasong” and “Shining Star.”
When Bailey slowed it down with what he called the “baby-making set,” he reminded fans that many of them conceived children to EWF songs. He also addressed the younger members of the audience, who may not have been born when the songs were produced.
“If you get a feeling [when a certain EWF song is played,]” he warned, they were probably conceived by “After the Love is Gone,” or “Can’t Hide Love,” or “Reasons,” where Bailey’s sweet, soaring falsetto brought the crowd to its feet for one of several standing ovations.
Horns and the Kalimba — a thumb piano of African origin — have been synonymous with EWF since their beginning, and both were in full effect at Sunday’s concert. The three-member horn section wasn’t just a horn section. Their presence on EWF songs is such an integral component that fans hum along to their runs as easily as they sing along to the lyrics.
While no one can replace Maurice White’s distinct voice or his obvious passion, the group’s current configuration (which includes Bailey’s son, Phillip Jr.) is a genuine reflection of White’s original intention.
Diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in the 1990s, White no longer performs with the band; but his presence is still very much a part of its sound. According to the group’s website, he works behind the scenes as the group’s composer and producer.
The racially diverse audience is a reflection of the group’s commitment to create music that is universal and inclusive.
Here are a couple of really interesting revelations I took with me from the concert: Realizing that the white lady sitting next to me and I both had our hands clasped together in a prayer gesture as EWF sang “That’s The Way of the World;” and that some of my rhythmically challenged sisters and brothers come in all hues.
Maurice White said on the group’s website that he put EWF together because “expanding awareness and uplifting spirits is so important in this day. People are looking for more. I hope our music can give them some encouragement and peace."
Thank you, Mr. White.
Photo by Sayre Berman. Verdine White