By Stephen Howie in cooperation with

Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre Glasgow, Scotland, December 10th. 1999
To get the chance to see Earth Wind and Fire at all was amazing, even if it was supposed to be a double header with Barry White. I would had even been happy if EWF performed only one track while they wiped the sweat off Barry. Imagine my reaction when, the day before the performance in Glasgow, I heard Barry had cancelled and Earth Wind and Fire were to perform a full and extended set!!!

After arriving at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre, information sheets were being handed out detailing the new performance. My stomach-wrenching excitement became even more intense when I discovered Shalamar were the newly drafted in special guests! I wasn’t expecting the full capacity to turn up after Barry White’s cancellation, and this was true. However, I did start to panic where only around 40 or 50 people were in the hall at the 7:30pm start when Shalamar kicked off with The Second Time Around. By 8:00pm, the hall was around ¾ full (about 7,000 people) and this was how it stayed for the duration. In passing, Shalamar were amazing. Howard Hewitt still has a tremendous voice and Jody Watley looked superb in the stunning tight leopard-skin one piece. It taken a while, put Shalamar managed to get the excited crowd out their seats and we were all waiting for EWF to come on. Shalamar performed all the favourites, including Night to Remember, Take That To The Bank, I Owe You One, Friends and Dancing In The Sheets. They also performed a spectacular cover of the Beatles’ Come Together. And they left with a rapturous applause. 

So, after a 15 minute break, and a move closer to the front rows (the original seats were very poor, especially for paying the full price), it was time. With a recorded intro from MC Perry Jones (the Gratitude one), and excellent laser effects, Earth Wind and Fire burst into Shining Star. First thing’s first, Philip Bailey’s hair!! I don’t know how long it has been like this (I have obviously never seen him before), but tonight he was shaved in quite close with the exception of a dreadlocked ponytail down his back! Many of the tracks performed this evening were similar to those performed at the Royal Albert Hall in London in 1997. Surprisingly, there were no initial problems with lighting or sound and there was no lag time for anyone’s voice to warm up – all kicked off smoothly. From Shining it was straight into the first verse of Let Me Talk with long sax bursts and an elongated solo from Verdine on bass. Verdine was on fire this evening, the energy of this man!!

Serpentine Fire was up next, with Philip introducing audience participation and giving each third of the hall a different chord to sing – it didn’t quite work, but was amusing nonetheless! Philip had a quick word with us, and referred to us as «small, but mighty» and we sure surprised him as the night went on with just how enthusiastic we were about the whole thing. Next to follow were Sing A Song and Getaway, with the latter being particularly memorable. Near the end of Getaway, Verdine and Morris Pleasure were having a bass-fight – battling away at the strings, Verdine playing at the bass guitar, with Morris replying in even more aggressive fashion. It then turned into a chase around the stage. After things getting a little dark and Philip trying to ‘calm’ them both down, it was no use and Verdine ended up levitating! A stunt I very much hoped to see, and so glad I did! By now, no one was on their seat and the response from the crowd was wild.

A track I didn’t expect to hear, Got To Get You Into My Life, got the whole hall singing – certainly a favourite with us in Scotland. I’m not sure if this was entirely scripted or not, but what happened next was memorable. After coming out of «Got To Get…», and completely unbacked, Philip started to «ba de ba»ing to Crosby’s White Christmas, which went down particularly well. Next, Sheldon introduced himself and the next two tracks – Love’s Holiday and (after sitting himself on his chair) After The Love Has Gone, where he asked «So you know this song, huh?». Kyausha Simpson, Ayesha Orange and Joanna Collins were now in the spotlight with a truly pulse-racing, nearly erotic, choreographed performance on and around three chairs! I should add here, the bass in this place is amazing – you can feel every square millimetre of your body, inside and out, vibrating intensely. And you could really feel it when the crew threw up Lets Groove – a true ‘hands in the air’ affair. Also pleasing to hear a little burst of the Emotions’ Best Of My Love between Philip, Sheldon and Ralph. By now the hall had turned into a hot, sweaty dancefloor with hundreds of people dancing in the aisles, standing on their seats, grooving in true style.

One ‘track’ I really did want to hear was Beijo/Brazilian Rhyme. The vocals were backed with light instrumentation and extended with a percussion battle between Philip and David Romero. I’m sort of glad they calmed it down a bit, otherwise I’m sure I could have just collapsed. Philip proved he still has that amazing falsetto vocal capability in the only track that you can really gauge it by – Reasons. During this he reached notes that I have never heard anyone else hit, never mind never heard this man hit. I’m sure everyone else had the same goosepimples reaction to this track, which was followed on by Fantasy.

It was time for Sheldon to show what he was really made of with a spectacular performance of a Jimi Hendrix classic, with Sheldon’s infamous scat singing. Not much movement from the crowd during this – we all simply stood in awe. No-one even anticipated the end nearing, especially when Boogie Wonderland started – with the three aforementioned dancers on vocals – and obviously backed by everyone in the hall who definitely knew the track!

The greatly anticipated September was next, which turned into a 15 minute extravaganza as EWF again broke into several Brazilian melodies and Philip gave mention to all on the stage. David Whitworth also gave us a brief rendition of Let Your Feelings Show (he also featured earlier in the show kicking his cymbals in 360º cycles!), before the energetic end to September. Lights off and everyone paid their respects to the band, who just delivered one helluva show. And of course, they all came back on two minutes later with a track I hadn’t realised wasn’t performed. The one and only – That’s The Way Of The World, sung with feeling and passion. And then it truly was the end of a tremendous night, one that I will never ever forget.

I must admit, I was hoping for Maurice White to jump out during the performance, but I was obviously hoping for too much. And not even a mention of him either. But they are sounding great even without him. There’s no doubt about it – Earth Wind and Fire are on top form. I had absolutely nothing bad to point out about any wavering vocals, or mix ups, or technical problems – there simply were none. They had a great time on stage, we had a great time on the floor. Been there, bought the tee-shirt and all of that, have got the memories and have experienced the legacy. Now bring on the new album!! And who IS Barry White anyway?

Stephen Howie


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