Maurice White's spirit alive and well in Earth, Wind and Fire at Tanglewood

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LENOX — Leader, songwriter, arranger and overall guru Maurice White may no longer be on stage for the band Earth Wind and Fire these days, but his spirit remains the guiding hand.

White passed away in February. But EWF, as many call them, retain the energy and choreography he introduced way back in 1971 when he created the band.

Earth, Wind and Fire were at Tanglewood on Saturday night, presenting a 22-song, two-hour set for a near-capacity crowd.

Maurice may be gone, but the remaining members of EWF ably picked up the slack. The choreography, in which every member of the group, up to 11 members, move in unison, was superb.

And it was non-stop. There are very few lulls in an Earth, Wind and Fire show, and there were very few here. Although individual members may duck out offstage while other members are featured, an EWF show is a heck of a workout for those fellows onstage.

The band opened with an instrumental medley of "Power," "Africano" and "Faces," as a psychedelic color montage flashed on a screen behind the band.

Then we were off to the races, as the band shifted, without a break, into full versions of "Jupiter," "Yearnin' Learnin'," "Shining Star," "Sing A Song" and "Serpentine Fire." Holy aerobic workout!

To be fair, most of the band took a blow during "Sing a Song," as original member Verdine White shredded a bass guitar solo that would have had John Entwistle nodding in approval. But that was about the only slowdown in the opening potion of the show to be had.

With the second half of the show unfolding, the only major question left was answered emphatically. Sixty-six-year-old Phillip "The Voice" Bailey took center stage to render heart-breaking renditions of "After the Love is Gone" and "Reasons."

Bailey, another original member along with percussionist Ralph Johnson and Verdine White, is, in the eyes of many, the soul of Earth, Wind and Fire. (Maurice White was considered the heart). His high-pitched falsetto is the basis for many of the bands hit songs.

And he nailed it on Saturday night with achingly sweet versions of "After" and "Reasons." At the end of the latter song, more than a few band members were seen wiping tears away, as, in fact, were many members of the audience.

Just prior to his vocals, Bailey was also featured playing the kalimba, the African finger piano, in the band's song, "Kalimba Story."

But it was now time for the proverbial Big Finish, and the band gave us their sterling cover of the Beatles' "Got To Get You Into My Life," "Fantasy" and "September." Kudos to saxophone player Gary Bias and percussionists Phillip Bailey Jr. and Johnson for their efforts in this span.

Following a short break, the encore was "Let's Groove" and "In the Stone." Maurice would have been delighted.

Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.


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