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Concert Reviews:
Chicago, Earth Wind & Fire Heat Things Up At DTE

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Thursday, June 25, 2009

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INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- The combination of Chicago and Earth, Wind & Fire has been a hot prospect since the two veteran acts began touring together in earlier in the decade. On Wednesday night (June 24) at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, however, it was a little hotter than usual.

Credit the weather for that -- blazing sunshine and 90-plus degree heat, not ideal conditions for groups that like to wear flashy attire and execute elaborate choreography on stage. EWF singer Philip Bailey, in fact, went through three shirts during his band's set and, after his falsetto showcase at the end of "Reasons" told the DTE crowd that "I was wondering how it was gonna feel to hit that note in this heat."

The show must go on, of course, and Chicago-EWF dutifully rolled out nearly three hours (including 15-minute intermission) of hits, both together and separately. The songs have aged a bit better than their performances of them, but that did not devalue either band's ability to traipse down memory lane in an undeniably crowd-pleasing fashion.

The show's greatest allure remains the joint sets that bookend the show, with all 19 musicians appearing to have as good a time as the crowd as they worked through each other's biggest hits. Chicago's "Beginnings" got things off to a somewhat sluggish start -- any slower and it would make the group's languid "Colour My World" sound like a Ramones song -- but it set a certain tone with Bailey taking the initial vocal and EWF's horn section joining Chicago's to bulk up the brass attack. Fortunately things kicked into higher gear on EWF's "In the Stone," while Chicago's "Dialogue (We Can Make it Happen)" was loose and funky, with Bailey and Chicago's Bill Champlin and Jason Scheff sharing vocals and Scheff and EWF's Verdine White trading bass licks.

The encore was even better, as if both bands had paced themselves to get to that point. EWF's "September" was a bit of a collision but was redeemed by the vocal vamping that closed the song, and a long romp through Chicago's "Free" gave the assorted instrumentalists a long leash for the night's best musical moment. Chicago's "Does Anybody Really Know What Time it Is?" and EWF's "Sing a Song" and "Shining Star" (with Scheff out-wailing Bailey) maintained that high gear, and "25 or 6 to 4" brought things to a rocking close as the three lead guitarists from the two bands shared the song's epic solo.

There were certainly some dodgy moments during the groups' individual sets -- including one of the Chicago member's headset mic unwittingly left on at the beginning of "Colour My World" -- but when they really had to, both showed they could rise to the occasion, and even handle the heat.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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