If there were any power surges Wednesday night, it was probably from the Earth, Wind & Fire concert at Shippensburg’s H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center. The energy coming from the stage was nearly physical and the audience was sending it right back.
Longevity rewards the deserving and Earth, Wind & Fire, or EWF, is certainly deserving.
Maurice White founded the band in 1969 with his brother, bassist Verdine White. Since then, EWF has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, won four American Music Awards, six Grammys, and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. They are currently touring in support of their new CD “Now, Then and Forever.”
Wednesday’s show featured three long-term members — Verdine White; lead singer Philip Bailey; and singer/percussionist Ralph Johnson. Bailey’s son, Philip Bailey Jr., sang and played percussion.
Maurice writes and manages the band, but has not toured since 1995, due in part to developing Parkinson’s disease.
The band performed nearly 20 songs, including the hits the crowd wanted. “Sing a Song,” “Shining Star,” “Serpentine Fire,” “Hearts on Fire,” “After the Love has Gone,” “Fantasy,” “September” and “Boogie Down” — each one a classic, and each one drawing ever more cheering and applause. The band also served up several songs from its new album and a cover of “Betcha By Golly Wow” originally by the Stylistics.
The show featured more than just much-loved songs. The light show added to the inspiring music, and the musicians added synchronized dance-crew steps along with energetic theatrics that brought the crowd to its feet time and time again.
Seven of the band members sang. With vocalists, two guitarists, Verdine on bass, three horn players, a drummer, a keyboard player and four percussionists, the stage was certainly filled. It was obvious the band loves what it does and loves its fans.
They talked to the crowd, encouraged them to clap and sing along, and even shook hands with members of the crowd during the performance.
EWF plays a mix of musical styles, but the combination is greater than the sum of its parts. R&B, jazz, funk, soul, pop, rock — put it in a blender, add talent, great moves and a desire to inspire, and you will end up with EWF.
Other musicians are fans as well. Phil Collins used the EWF horn section, known as the Phenix Horns on several Genesis songs as well as some of his solo hits. Iconic jazz trumpeter Miles Davis reportedly claimed that EWF was his favorite band, as has Quincy Jones and Dionne Warwick. Prince even wrote “Super Hero” for them.
For more information on the band, visit www.earthwindandfire.com, and for information on events at the Luhrs Center, visit www.luhrscenter.com.