“I Don’t Want to Live in the Past, but it’s a Nice Place to Visit”
August 7, 2017 – The world outside of Madison Square Garden last week may have been lulled into believing the 90’s were back in style, but for the crowd inside the legendary venue, it was all about the 1970’s. The audience braved a rainy Monday to see the funkiest show of the 2017 season, and they were not disappointed.
The 2054 tour paired Chic featuring Nile Rodgers with headliners, Earth, Wind & Fire. EWF had toured with several different bands in recent years, but in hitting the road with their fellow disco superstars, they created atmosphere that kept fans on their feet for four heart-thumping hours.
The show opened with Chic featuring Nile Rodgers. Rodgers has written and produced dozens of chart topping hits, and he pointed out one of Chic’s two lead singers, Kim T. Davis, now has a number one hit of her own. Her single, “Fire,” spent this summer at the top of the dance charts.
Chic’s set didn’t include Davis’s single or either of Chic’s recent songs, such as 2015’s infectious, “I’ll Be There.” Instead, the band kept with the 1970’s vibe by playing dance floor classics such as, “Everybody Dance,” “I Want Your Love,” and “Le Freak.” The set also included songs from Rodgers’ vast catalog of work with other musicians over his almost 50 year career.
The audience thrilled to songs like the Sister Sledge track, “We Are Family,” and Daft Punk’s 2013 hit, “Get Lucky.” It was the number one single, “Good Times,” however, that truly helped remind the audience of the everlasting influence of Rodgers and long time collaborator, the late Bernard Edwards. The song has inspired or been sampled by dozens of musicians from rock bands like Queen and The Cure, to rappers Grandmaster Flash and The Beastie Boys. Rodgers used the best known sample of the song to close out the set as he chanted out new lyrics to “Rappers Delight” by the Sugar Hill Gang.
The intermission between Chic and Earth, Wind & Fire, felt like a dance party of its own. The disco and dance tracks piped through The Garden kept the crowd grooving while waiting for the headliners. Everyone was primed for the blast of light and sound as Earth, Wind & Fire took the stage.
Earth, Wind & Fire has been one of the most celebrated groups in music history, with almost too many nominations and awards to count. The late Maurice White founded the band with a desire to fuse together the music of Black and White America. That desire helped lay the groundwork for the disco and funk music that ruled the airwaves for the rest of the 70’s, and went on to influence future generations of musicians.
Despite a few member shake ups in the early years, the classic EWF line up was set by 1973 and included White’s brother, Verdine, and vocalist, Philip Bailey. There were a couple of moderate hits over the years, but the 1975 soundtrack for “That’s the Way of the World” finally shot the group to stardom. The album went to number one and spun off two hit singles including their first number one single, “Shining Star.”
It has been more than 40 years since “Shining Star” topped the charts, but when Earth, Wind & Fire opened their set with it last week, they were as electrifying as bands many years their junior. Original members Bailey, Verdine White, and percussionist Ralph Johnson, formed the core of the current line up, which also featured Bailey’s son, Philip Bailey, Jr. on vocals.
The first six songs of the band’s set, including “Sing a Song” and “Serpentine Fire” had the crowd dancing in the aisles so excitedly that security had to send people back to their seats more than a few times. Unfortunately, the middle portion of the show faltered a bit thanks to poor pacing.
For a band as prolific as Earth, Wind & Fire, it must be a challenge to choose the right songs for a tour, but just as important as song choice is song order. When fans bought tickets to a show featuring Chic and Earth, Wind & Fire, they were most likely expecting to spend a good amount of the night dancing. It made no sense that half of the show consisted of ballads, and more confusingly, all of the slow songs were lumped together right in the middle of the set.
The band got the crowd on its feet again by ending the first set with the trio of “September,” “Boogie Wonderland,” and “Let’s Groove,” but the audience would have been better served if the band had included fewer ballads and better pacing.
Despite a somewhat flawed running order, Earth, Wind & Fire put on a fantastic show. The horn and guitar sections each danced and performed in unison for much of the night. White and Bailey, Sr., rightfully spent much of the night in the spotlight playing to the audience. The encore included 1977 trippy disco hit, “Fantasy,” and fan favorite, “In the Stone.”
The diverse crowd that emerged from The Garden discovered the rain had finally stopped and it would only be Monday for a few more minutes. Most were exhausted from dancing and many were still singing those songs that have kept millions on their feet for decades. Not a bad way to start the week.
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.
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