Chicago & EWF: Bring in the Brass,Bring in the Funk

Chicago and EWF in Camden by LJ Moskowitz

Chicago and Earth, Wind and Fire in Camden by LJ Moskowitz

By LJ Moskowitz

The sun was setting behind the Philadelphia skyline as the crowd took to their feet last night at the Susquehanna Bank Center in Camden. The pre-show music for the “Heart and Soul” tour featuring Earth, Wind & Fire and Chicago started to pump through the sound system giving the audience a quick refresher course on the overwhelming success of the two bands.

There are more than 200 million albums sold and well over a hundred charting singles between them, so there was plenty of ground to cover in the opening medley. When the introduction ended, 21 musicians from both groups took to the stage to perform the Chicago song, “Beginnings”.

The two groups might seem like a strange pairing on the surface, but it took no time to understand why this is the fourth time they have toured together. The three
songs they opened with highlighted their killer brass sections, and the combined vocals worked beautifully together.

After the third song, the members of Chicago left the stage to Earth, Wind & Fire, and their famous blend of funk and rock. The crowd danced through most of the set, only getting time to rest during the band’s ballads. One man shouted, “sit down,” at the dozens of people in front of him during “Serpentine Fire” and received more than a few profane words in response.

The sole disappointment with the set was the truncated version of the Beatles cover, “Got to Get Your Into My Life”. Different variations on the sound, “awwww!” echoed through the lawn area when the band cut the song short, although they were quickly placated as the band leapt into “Fantasy”.

After closing their set with the 1981 hit, “Let’s Groove”, Earth, Wind and Fire left the stage to make way for Chicago. The band packed the house just a year ago at the PNC Arts Center, but an onlooker might have thought it had been years since they were in New Jersey for the amount of cheers they received upon returning to the stage after a 15 minute intermission.

Chicago’s timeline can generally broken up into two periods, the 1970’s horn driven rock music with songs like, “Saturday in the Park” and “Make Me Smile”, and the power ballads from the 1980’s such as “Hard Habit to Break” and “You’re the Inspiration”. While the hits from the latter period had plenty of fans waving lighters and glowing cell phone screens in the air, the band was at its best performing the more upbeat classics.

Besides both bands having formed in Chicago and showcasing incredible horn sections, another thing that joins them together is the chart success they found with cover versions that were arguably better than the originals. While Earth, Wind and Fire’s cover left the crowd disappointed by its brevity, Chicago’s cover of The Spencer Davis Group’s song, “I’m a Man”, had the opposite reaction. Their take on the song featured a dueling percussion interlude that was electrifying.
The group completed their set and both bands returned to stage to finish the show with some of the best songs of the night including the Earth, Wind and Fire perennial favorite, “September”. The show closed with a booming version of Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4”.

It may have been almost 50 years since each band formed, but outside of some fine lines and gray hair, it was hard to tell. Throughout the entire four hour set, both groups bounded around stage with the energy of a bunch of millennials. Hopefully the pairing will continue for more summers to come.

Chicago and EWF in Camden by LJ Moskowitz

Chicago and EWF in Camden by LJ Moskowitz

Chicago and EWF in Camden by LJ Moskowitz

Chicago and EWF in Camden by LJ Moskowitz

Chicago and EWF in Camden by LJ Moskowitz

Chicago and EWF in Camden by LJ Moskowitz

Chicago and EWF in Camden by LJ Moskowitz

Chicago and EWF in Camden by LJ Moskowitz

Chicago and EWF in Camden by LJ Moskowitz

Chicago and EWF in Camden by LJ Moskowitz

LJ Moskowitz is a photographer and writer based out of New Jersey specializing in concert, product and fine art photography. She is an active member of the National Press Photographers Association and Professional Photographers of America. You can find her at Shutterchick Photography, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.