There are some bands with songs so famous you forget that they wrote them. Or maybe you remembered and bought a ticket to the Chicago/Earth, Wind and Fire double-bill show at Roger’s Arena in Vancouver on the eve of Election Day.
“They’re a legend, they’re an icon, and they’re our friends,” said Chicago of Earth, Wind and Fire at the beginning of the night.
A great escape from the stress and impending doom of the swiftly approaching Tuesday, these two 60s-spawned bands fusing together was a solid idea. Every band geek’s dream, both groups filled the stage with brass instruments galore and pure feel-good nostalgia. Despite years of plugging away on tour trails, neither group has lost their passion for the gig.
Chicago’s Robert Lamm led off the night with early hit “Beginnings,” proving that his voice could still carry. Earth, Wind and Fire’s Philip Bailey took over directly after with “In The Stone” and the two very different groups helped each other out admirably. Original founder and frontman and perhaps the most recognizable of the Earth, Wind and Fire posse—Maurice White—recently passed, leaving only three original members: bassist Verdine White was the 70s disco era incarnated that night, sporting a white flare jumpsuit and an almost cartoonish grin; singer Philip Bailey, whose octave range and distinctive falsetto offered up some high points in the night, both figuratively and literally; and vocalist and percussionist Ralph Johnston, who was not often front and center. It was nice knowing these guys were there, but still it is not the same band. Talented and entertaining…yes. Authentic…no. But audiences had to cut their losses and focus on the potential fun at hand.
Earth, Wind and Fire provided the first set—after an intro from Chicago—and pleased the crowd with the likes of “Boogie Wonderland,” “Yearnin’ Learnin’” and “After the Love Has Gone.” A cover of the Beatles’ “Got to Get You Into My Life” was a welcomed funk sprinkled rendition.
While Earth, Wind and Fire were most likely the big draws for ticket holders that night with their infectious soul fun, Chicago offered up a fine reminder of why their songs have lived on into the 21st Century as favourites. They kicked off the set with “Make Me Smile”, a fan favourite that would return again before the night was through. Chicago is a more mellow component and certainly deeper than their tour partners, aside from soft rock up-beat hits like “Saturday in the Park” and “Hard Habit to Break.” Meanwhile “You’re the Inspiration”, a heavy hitter on the group’s resume, took things down a notch. Chicago really has not lost their touch, despite band member switch-ups. Still they maintain a lot of core members and stellar musicianship, and trombonist James Pankow—who was very hard not to smile at—is not about ready to lose his swagger.
The two groups came together for an encore set at the end, gifting ticket holders with the incomparable Earth, Wind and Fire hit “September” and, of course, “Shining Star.” The energy was definitely there and both groups were having the time of their lives.