THE MADISON SQUARE GARDEN REPORT
Last night I attended my 18th Earth, Wind & Fire concert and it was GREAT. Unfortunately some of the people booed the group at the end. I will attempt to explain what I think happened.
The concert was arranged by WRKS. A local Classic Soul radio station here in New York. The groups that were scheduled to appear were Evelyn Champagne King, The O’Jays, Maze, & EWF. They appeared on stage in that order. The concert was supposed to begin at 8:00pm and EWF did not take the stage until 11:40PM. It was quite apparent that the groups that performed earlier benefited from a more livelier crowd. The other thing that was obvious was that the stage crews took much too long in setting up for each group. In the thirty-five minutes of setup between Maze & EWF many people left for the exits.
When EWF came on stage they opened up with "Boogie Wonderland" and at that time is was apparent that this crowd was not into the music. As the concert proceeded, a heckler behind me led a chant saying "We want Maurice" and "This is bullshit". When he headed to the exits I approached him and explained that Maurice had been retired from touring for the past 5 years. This revelation seemed to catch him off guard and he appeared to be shocked. This showed what level of knowledge these fans had about the current status of the group. This was not a good public relations night for the band.
There were some great things to be said;
1) Phillip Baileys voice was crystal clear.
2) Sheldon Reynolds is getting better and better at singing "Maurice’s songs". He did a great job last night on "After the Love is Gone".
3) Verdine White proves time and time again that he is one of the great bass players in the world.
4) Great Performances on; Sun Goddess, Reasons, That’s the way of the World, Let’s Groove, Can’t Hide Love, Fantasy and Shining Star. Also the Sonny Emory solo to begin the encore was tremendous.
Regardless of the crowd the group is always fantastic and the music means so much. Every EWF concert is a special event to me and this was no different. Had this crowd contained TRUE EWF fans, this might have been the talk of the town. This was the first time since the early eighties that the band had played in front of a huge arena here in New York (around 18.000 people). In the late eighties the group played a six night stand at Radio City Music hall (around 5.000 people each night). I can’t wait to see them again.
Just one note. From my own experience as an EWF follower, I believe that the best course of action for the future of the band would be re-unification. Since Maurice has retired, the members should immediately ask Larry Dunn, Al McKay, Johnny Graham and Fred White to rejoin the band. Remember, the number two and three song writers for the group are Al & Larry. Their direction helped create many of the great hits of the group and of course they could help propel the group to a new era.
I Love EWF
Paul A. Gilbert
(C) BBC MCMLXXXIII