EARTH, WIND & FIRE @ NATIONAL WESTERN EVENTS CENTER | 4.28.12
Earth, Wind & Fire is infallible. The band -- which has been playing beautifully crafted, soulful pop for more than four decades -- can't have a bad show. Last night at the National Western Events Center, the group proved it, putting on an energetic set, songs woven together by expert rhythm section, a gorgeous array of horns and, of course, its trademark chorus of voices. Led by the distinctive falsetto of Colorado's proudest musical export, the multiple Grammy-winning Philip Bailey, the ensemble provided a little more than an hour of a living funk and jazz-influenced history.
Since this was a a charity event for Denver Health, it was only appropriate that Mayor Hancock and Governor Hickenlooper partly served as opening acts. Once past the hoopla of speeches and auctioning, Earth, Wind & Fire opened with "Boogie Wonderland," beginning the quick trip through just a small piece of the group's massive catalog.
Bassist Verdine White rightfully stuck out in a silver, fringed suit as he circled a maze of bandmates, each gentleman wearing a giant smile as they glided through "Sing A Song" and "Shining Star." "Serpentine Fire" brought the tempo down slightly, but the crowd continued to stayed tapped into Earth, Wind & Fire's groove, positivity radiating from the big band's smiling sound.
Bailey stepped to the congas for the historical lyrical walk of "Chicago (Chi-Town) Blues," still leading the band with his voice. He then appeared with a Kalimba, which produced a cosmic sound key to the band's "Kalimba Story." The set moved into a slow groove with "That's The Way Of The World," where it would stay through several more tracks. The crowd was just as pleased with the decelerated rhythm, couples embracing in the aisles as Bailey made a joke eluding to Earth, Wind & Fire being perfect and powerful music for conceiving.
As the tempo regained speed, Bailey took time to introduce the huge ensemble, and thank everyone for coming out. "September" was a welcome jump up, the audience now translating the boogie into even bigger dance moves. Sliding nicely into "Let's Groove," EW&F showcased it's ability to read the energy of it's devoted audience, cranking the happy to an all-night high. Folding into "Mighty Mighty," Earth, Wind & Fire closed down a flawlessly executed night of brilliant music.
Personal Bias: Earth, Wind & Fire is one of my favorite bands of all time.
Random Detail: It's relieving to experience a show where there is no inherent "cool" factor; the diverse crowd was dancing like no one was watching, and it made for an even more awesome night.
By the Way: I was actually surprised by the smell of weed, considering it was a charity event.
Follow Backbeat on Twitter: @westword_music