Santana postpones, Earth, Wind & Fire deliver thrilling set to Ruoff
It wasn’t quite the show everyone expected, but soul icons Earth, Wind & Fire got a crowd up from the Ruoff Music Center on Friday night before Santana’s last-minute postponement hit. finally sends them to the exit doors.
The opening act, itself without longtime drummer Ralph Johnson, who missed the show due to a family emergency, overcame some early sound issues to deliver a heart-pounding set of over 20 songs.
The horns sounded. Harmonies resounded. And the beating fingers of founding bassist Verdine White – yet another revelation at 70 – kept time. White took a solo midway through the set that could have passed for thunder in the lingering stormy sky.
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A feisty “Boogie Wonderland” may have been the first time I heard disco music played live. And it was good. The 70s usually sounds awful in the history books, but the music was good. Everyone always tells me that.
The stage was awash with movement, with the 11-piece band’s choreography and colorful outfits adding to the musical performance. The three singers jumped between a variety of percussion instruments. There was always something going on.
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Lead singer Philip Bailey, a member of the band for 50 years and its undisputed leader, was excellent. It hit some of the highest notes I’ve ever heard live, male or female.
During one of these notes, a teenage girl sitting behind me asked her parents how the man on stage had done this.
“I can’t do this,” she told them.
Me neither, kid. Neither do I.
The show left some disappointment in myself for not seeing EWF with founder and co-lead vocalist Maurice White, who died in 2016, but the remaining members did not disappoint.
A few minutes after the end of EWF, the announcement of Carlos Santana’s illness abruptly stopped the energy. But the group should be commended for giving people a little something to talk about on the way home.
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Rory Appleton is the pop culture reporter at IndyStar. Reach him at 317-552-9044 and [email protected], or follow him on Twitter at @RoryDoesPhonics.