The funk pioneers managed to turn their sold-out Deer Valley gig into a steamy dance party, despite the lily-white ski resort environs.---
Before Friday's Earth, Wind & Fire concert commenced, I mentioned to my friend that the general admission sections of the ski hill would be dancing for sure, but I wasn't so sure about the picnic-ing folks ensconced directly in front of the stage, sipping wine and "being seen" by their fellow Park City illuminati.
Silly me. There's no way to stay seated when the 12-piece Earth, Wind & Fire crew gets up in your face and DEMANDS that you dance.
Led by long-time members Verdine White (the crazed-looking, chaps-wearing bassist) and Philip Bailey (he of the stunning falsetto and stylish dreads), EWF threw down hit after hit Friday night, monster-sized songs ranging from straight funk and R&B to Latin soul and rock & roll. It's easy to see how EWF ended up in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame a decade ago: The band's music incorporates virtually the entire canon of American pop history.
Denver native Bailey is the key to the ongoing success of EWF as a touring entity years after band founder and guiding light Maurice White quit hitting the road. Bailey's angelic falsetto sounds as good as ever, and he hit stratospheric notes regularly Friday night, undaunted by age or altitude.
"Boogie Wonderland" opened the show, starting a streak of stellar performances that showcased all 12 men on stage. The three-man EWF Horns had plenty of chances to take center stage (when Verdine White wasn't there doing a series of karate kicks while thumping his bass strings), and at times there were five people playing different percussion instruments.
Whether delivering dance hits like "Shining Star" and "September," or ballads like "After The Love Is Gone," EWF was tight, energetic and constantly working the crowd from every point on stage. The harmonies were stellar, as was the musicianship. Among the highlights: "Got To Get You Into My Life," "Fantasy," "Let's Groove" and "September," as well as a short Bailey tangent into the Delfonics' "Betcha By Golly Wow!"
It had been 10 years between Earth, Wind & Fire appearances in Utah. Considering they sold-out a mountainside that Bob Dylan couldn't just three nights before, perhaps we can get them on a more regular schedule of visits.