One of the very first interviews I ever conducted as a music journalist was with Earth Wind & Fire's leader Maurice White back in the seventies. I was writing for a long since defunct Seattle music magazine called Monolith. We published just two issues, which I understand are now considered by some to be collectors items.
As I recall it, the interview was conducted over dinner at the hotel that White was staying at while Earth Wind & Fire were in town for a big show at the Seattle Center Coliseum. At the time, Earth Wind & Fire were one of the biggest concert attractions in the world. Their shows were noteworthy for being huge extravaganzas replete with massive staging and lighting effects.
They had bigger explosions than Kiss, more lasers than Blue Oyster Cult, and you might just get a magic show to boot. But at the center of it all was the music. White himself was a most interesting interview subject at the time. He had all of these really big ideas about peace, love, and our cosmic place in the universe — when all I really wanted to do was talk about the music.
Still, he was a genuinely nice guy, and you certainly could not fault his sincerity. He really, truly believed in all of this cosmic mumbo-jumbo he was spouting.
Earth Wind & Fire never did change the world, but they did make some really great music.
On this DVD, the band is captured in their prime over a two night stand at the Oakland Coliseum in 1981. It's all here. The razor sharp rhythm section of bassist Verdine White and drummer Fred White. The combination of Maurice White's deeper, funkier vocal register, and the flawless falsetto of vocalist Philip Bailey (especially on the ballads). And of course the Phenix Horns (and yes, that is the correct spelling), who were at the time considered to be the finest horn section this side of Tower Of Power.
Oh, and yeah the lasers and the explosions and such are all there too.
My only real complaint here is with the length. At a running time of just under an hour, it feels like things get cut short just when the band is really starting to establish a groove.
I've also never been a really big fan of the sort of hits medleys that artists like Prince continue to use in concert to this day. What that translates to here is a radically shortened version of Earth Wind & Fire's biggest hit, "Shining Star," that is over before it ever really gets started.
There is also a somewhat dated feel here, particularly when it comes to the spaceman costumes and the dance routines. Still, it is dated in all of the right ways — evoking memories of a time when big stageshows served mainly to augment some very great music.
Minor complaints aside, this is still a great DVD.
Although Maurice White himself is in ailing health these days, and as a band Earth Wind & Fire haven't had a hit in years, they remain a big draw on the summer concert curcuit. In fact, they are probably playing an outdoor theatre somewhere near you this summer.
If so, run, don't walk to see them.
If not, this DVD will do in a pinch.