For the first time in their 43 year long career, soul-funk heroes- Earth, Wind and Fire- ventured to our little corner as a welcome addition to the already mammoth lineup of the 2012 Byron Bay Bluesfest. It was well worth the wait. The thirteen piece group included three original members; Philip Bailey, Ralph Johnson, and Verdine White.
In the absence of founding member and vocalist Maurice White the remaining members worked hard and were clearly committed to making it a night to remember.
They opened their set with a jaw-dropping rendition of the 1979 dance hit Boogie Wonderland and from the word go Verdine White set the mood with his unsurpassable dance moves. The audience expected him to tire sooner or later, but the sixty year old bass player boogied his way through the one-hundred minute set, and the crowd were moving with him. Vocalist Philip Bailey had the crowd in the palm of his hand as he burned through hits Sing A Song, Shining Star, and Serpentine Fire.
Finally the audience wound down during the ever-feared middle section of the concert. It was clear they were not as familiar with lesser hits Kalimba Story and Evil, but that was hardly important. The performance and the music spoke for itself and wasn’t lost on the band devotees or the new listeners.
Throughout the Beatles’ hit Got To Get You Into My Life the crowd participated in what seemed a battle to the death with Bailey of who could scream the loudest. He had a clear win over the crowd with the advantage of his ‘four-octave wonder’ voice (and his mike). We cheered for a re-challenge, and Bailey responded by beating us time and time again through Fantasy, September, crowd favourite Let’s Groove and Mighty, Mighty to finish their main set. After a brief wait they ran back to the stage for one last dance: In The Stone.
Highlight: Everything from the funky grooves, to Verdine’s ridiculous dancing, and then to Bailey’s astonishing vocal performance. The group’s au revoir to Australia was truly staggering.