Sound Advice: Earth, Wind & Fire with Chicago

Tuesday • Riverbend Music Center

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click to enlarge Earth, Wind & Fire
Earth, Wind & Fire

Earth, Wind & Fire is the kind of band that has monumentally transcended the typical successes and fandom that most classic bands achieve. Through more than 45 years of consistent activity, both in terms of touring and continually adding to its now 21-album-deep discography, the band has racked up 12 nominations and four trophies from the American Music Awards, a BET Lifetime Achievement Award, 17 Grammy nominations and 6 awards, a Hollywood Walk of Fame Star, an NAACP Image Award and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame — to name just the major ones. That alone should be enough to pique your interest and propel you toward exploring the band’s music, which you’ve undoubtedly heard, whether you know it or not.

EW&F was founded in 1969 by tenor lead vocalist Maurice White, and while it kept some consistent members over the years — including falsetto vocalist Philip Bailey, bassist Verdine White, percussionist Ralph Johnson, keyboardist Larry Dunn and guitarist Al McKay — it has had dozens of temporary musician additions, especially since the turn of the century when Maurice White relinquished his onstage leadership due to Parkinson’s Disease. The band has largely been known for wildly energetic and involved performances, partly due to a stage full of people creating that classic ’70s-style audio-visual candy (think dancers, the group’s famed dynamic horn section and backup singers).

While the group’s genre is hard to pin down in just a couple words — they’ve received critical acclaim for successfully spanning something like 10 genres — its most popular songs, such as “September,” “Shining Star” and “Let’s Groove,” easily fall into the category of friggin’-get-down Disco/Funk.

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