Boom! Less than 10 minutes after taking to the stage tonight, Earth Wind and Fire hit us with both barrels and drop a full tilt ‘Boogie Wonderland’ on us in all its extended boogilicious glory. If this is in their opening salvo then what other delights await us?
The 12-piece strong band flex their musical muscle warming their chops as they take turns centre-stage displaying their wares and getting their collective groove on. These cats are drilled, choreographed and synched to perfection. But despite the quasi-schmaltzy pizazz, glee club gurning and prancing partying, not a single note, beat or cue is missed or fluffed. What follows over the next two hours is the slickest, funkiest, dicso-est, funnest show this auld codger’s been to in too long of a time.
The 24-legged groove machine works the crowd and drives the beat on from disco to soul to funk and back to the disco four-to-the-floor. It’s a heady conga slapping, hot-tamale timbale-popping, honking brass-blowing stew, topped with keyboards, funky bass and twin guitars trading licks off each other as they effortlessly follow the flow.
Song after song segues into each other in one endless 80s disco block party jam, packed sardine tight with more hits than “Irish Passports” got on google when news of the Brexit broke.
As the main part of tonight’s show climaxes, we’re hit the triple whammy of ‘Fantasy’, ‘September’ and a freaking awesome, ‘Let’s Groove Tonight’. The 3arena is by now hotter than a disco inferno and the suburbanite Moms and Pops, out on a school night no less, are busting moves on the floor and in the tiered seating like they’re back in Studio 54 in all its white powdered powered glory. If there were faeces attached to the end of the fisherman’s line before tonight’s show then it’s long gone because this shit is well and truly off the hook.
The only thing funkier than the music in the room tonight is original member and bass playing supremeo, Verdine Whites’ sequenced red hot strides. Verdine must be a stranger to the truth because, man those pants are on FIRE!
Central to it all is another original member and the man they refer to on stage tonight as The Voice, Philip Bailey. The man’s vocal range covers more octaves than my car’s got gears and he moves through those gears, from deep-down- how-low-can-you-go growl to mountain-high falsetto with ease and panache. His performance during ‘Fantasy’ is what the younger folks would call rid-onk-cul-ous. When he hits those highs towards the songs outro, I’m glad, for once, that my beer was served in a plastic cup because those are some glass shattering highs he’s reaching.
He seems genuinely taken aback when he stops the band and lets the audience sing the outro to ‘After The Love Has Gone’. “That’s the first time that’s ever happened,” he tells us and tonight even my inner cynic believes him.
At the show’s end and as reward, EWF are treated to the traditional “Ole Ole Oles” of an Irish audience but for once this doesn’t seem trite or clichéd. As dutiful hosts the least we can do is sing one for our guests and it seems to hit the right note with the boys who revel in the warmth of our welcome.
It’s very reminiscent of when Chic blew us and we them away at the Picnic back in ’09. And if Mr Bailey and co follow Nile Rodgers’ example and return to mine, the seemingly endless, emerald, rich, nostalgic, discotastic vein in pursuit of pension fund padding you could do a lot worse than get on down to their “Boogie Wonderland”.