On Saturday night, Salt Lake City's 30- and 40somethings remembered how to dance - and they literally shook Abravanel Hall.
From the moment Earth Wind and Fire erupted with a video-on-the-curtain splash of colored lights and photographs to the silhouetted tableau at the end, nobody really sat down much. It was all sound and fury, and it signified a great deal, including the staying power of one of the most popular of '70s bands.The show is said to be scaled back; I never saw an early EWF show, so I don't know. It's hard to believe. The stage in the symphony hall seemed small to hold so many people - 12 band members, two sultry dancers and a plethora of lights that never stopped their crazy gyrations.
It was a choreographed show, well-paced and carefully planned. But somehow, Earth Wind and Fire managed to capture a feeling of spontaneity that seems to be lacking in most concerts - especially at the tail end of a lengthy tour.
The music is as the audience remembered it: a mixture of styles from gospel to African rhythm to blues, churned together and gliding. The result, in fact, is a seamless show as one song slides into another, all with the Earth Wind and Fire signature sound. Humming. Broad vocal ranges. Saxophones and guitars, horns and drums, keyboards.
Unfortunately, and as is too often the case when a louder act plays Abravanel Hall, the incredible volume meant that some of the finer, subtler features of the music - like Philip Bailey's voice - were sometimes lost. Somebody needs to give serious thought to using the volume control to get rid of distortion. It's getting old.
Most people didn't seem to mind too much. They came to recapture a feeling, and Earth Wind and Fire delivered.
There's no "oldies" feel to the tour; although the music has remained nearly unchanged for 25 years, it feels and sounds fresh.
And it was easy to forget that this isn't really the Earth Wind and Fire that made such a mark on the music industry in the late 1970s. Of the original group, only bassist Verdine White, percussionist Ralph Johnson and Bailey remain. Founder and chief songwriter Maurice White (Verdine's older brother) has semiretired, choosing to stay home and write and produce instead of touring.
In the old days, Bailey handled the falsetto work and Maurice White took care of the rest of the vocals. These days, Bailey does it all, and his range is breathtaking. The high point of the evening came when he climbed the scale with "Fantasy." He continued the vocal pyrotechnics in "Head to the Sky."
The old tunes were all there, from "Something Happened Along the Way" to "Singalong" and "Shining Star."
But the best part was the chemistry. These guys obviously like performing, and they like doing it together. There are stars and there are backup members, but everyone received an individual and generous showcase.
Just one question: Why a 20-plus minute pause between the opening act and Earth Wind and Fire? Opener D. Knowledge was a poet, for pete's sake.