By Ian Pearson
Pic by Peter Hellström

Manchester Apollo Theatre – Manchester, England, July 2nd. 1998
It had been sixteen years since I last saw the "Mighty Elements". My impatience was beginning to show with about 1 hour to go, even the support artist Denny Hines appeared to be in a rush to finish her set and make way for "The Gods" as she put it.

Anxiety over – To thunderous applause EWF emerged on stage and, straight into a blistering opening of "Mighty Mighty" – Everyone looked great, emblazoned in funky outfits. The opening was a montage of numbers including "Shining Star", "Can’t Hide Love", "Sun Goddess", "Head to the Sky", "Let Me Talk" each one seamlessly fused in a procession of musical excellence.

The crowd was by now in full swing, – then a scorching rendition of "September" took us to higher levels of fervor. Some of the band cooled down while we were treated to a feast of percussion interplay between the four "drummers" effortlessly interchanging between each other.

The tempo slowed for some "resting" as Phillip Bailey quipped with the audience. He then enthralled us with "I’ll Write A Song For You" followed by Sheldon Reynolds weighing in with an impressive performance of "Be Ever Wonderful".

We were soon whipped up again as the frenetic pace returned, The Band pumping out "In the Stone" and "Getaway", which was interspersed by a guitar "duel" between Morris Pleasure and Mr Entertainment, the outrageous Verdine White, laying down some incredibly nasty bass. The galaxy of songs continued with the awesome "Fantasy" and, "Reasons", yet again displaying the outstanding vocal talents of Phillip Bailey – His passionate delivery of songs was inspirational.

Sonny Emory gave a mind blowing solo performance, which not only sounded fantastic, but was visually stunning aswell (if not a little self indulgent). Several sax solos were excellently performed by Gary Bias, none better than in "After The Love has Gone". The climax of the show included storming performances of "Sing A Song", "Boogie Wonderland" and a stonking "Lets Groove". On an unusually hot night for Manchester, energy & perspiration was in abundance both on and off the stage. The encore inluded "Beijo" and the classic "Thats The Way Of The World". The fourteen band members were deafeningly cheered and applauded offstage, as a superlative packed evening drew to a close. The audience left on a "natural" high from an unforgetable experience. I just hope I don’t have to wait another sixteen years for our paths to cross again.

Ian Pearson


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