On a beautiful Saturday night, Ravinia was packed to its fullest for the opening night of Ravinia’s festival with none other than the legendary dynamic group Earth, Wind & Fire. Comprised of 14 members, the band included 3 original members Maurice White, Verdine White and Phillip Bailey.
The sold-out show started off with a bang with “Boogie Wonderland” going into “Sing a Song” and “Shining Star.” It seemed like the band wanted to slap the audience in the face with the songs they know and love first. By doing that, the first 3 songs seemed to bring the audience to their feet. Along with the spectacular lights on the drum kit and the rest of the stage, the set up on stage was very interesting. Oh, and I forgot to mention, the band was playing with the Ravinia Symphony Orchestra. That just added more fire power.
The band showed they still have it with blowing through the rare stuff like “Fantasy,” “Serpentine Fire” and “Evil,” while updating their classics like “After the Love Has Gone” and “Let’s Groove.”
The orchestra really added some lush arrangements to “After the Love Has Gone” and “Reasons.” Those orchestrations made the sound much fuller than it already was. The horns section also was killer, adding the core pieces to the rest of the band. Of the 3 horns, the person that really stood out was Gary Bias on saxophone. He wailed through some great solos through a lot of the numbers.
After talking with bassist Verdine White early on last month, he told me how much he loves the music, and about growing up in Chicago. From the looks on his face and the energy he had up on stage; that really showed, taking bass solos here and there, and jumping around the stage, you knew he was happy to be at Ravinia.
Phillip Bailey has one of the most unbelievable ranges for a man that I’ve seen. He was hitting these crazy high notes in songs like “Reasons” and “After the Love Has Gone.” I think, after mentioning those songs so many times already, you can tell that those 2 were probably the stand-out songs of the night.
The audience was reacting positively to the band and the music by screaming out the lyrics and dancing in their seats to songs like the Beatles’ “Got to Get You into My Life” and the upbeat “September.”
For the encore, the band came back out to perform “In the Stone,” a song that I would think would start the show instead of ending it. When my dad saw the group back in the 70’s, he told me they put on a great show, and even now, they prove despite their older ages, they can still get the crowd going.
The one thing I was disappointed about was the show only lasted 90 minutes. I think if they had more time, the show would’ve been better. But rules are rules, and they did the best with what they were given. I highly recommend seeing Earth, Wind & Fire live when they come back. You’re guaranteed a good time, and Ravinia is the perfect venue for them as well. Everyone else on the lawn was also cheering too.
Ravinia is a great venue for performers and acts, and as they show year by year, they really know how to get the good ones like this one. Catch a show there this season. With acts like Santana, CSN, and The Blues Brothers, you don’t wanna miss this!
Reviewed by Kevin Pollack on 6/9/12