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Review: MUSIC; Earth, Wind and Fire ECHO Arena Liverpool.

Byline: DAVID PRENTICE ECHO Head of Sport dave.prentice@liverpool.com @Prenno

HEY provide seats at the ECHO Arena for Earth, Wind and Fire concerts.

TBut, like Michael Jackson's gloves, they're there for no apparent reason.

The jazz, funk, pop, soul legends don't do wistful nostalgia.

They might have a back-catalogue which goes back 45 years, but they're still as tight, exuberant, vibrant and downright joyous as they've ever been - and the Liverpool crowd was on its feet from the opening bars of Boogie Wonderland, their second song of a near two-hour hit-packed set. They didn't sit back down again.

The accent was firmly on fun on Monday night. The year 2016 has been a bitch: political upheaval, terrorist outrages, football humiliation - and the premature passings of far too many men and women we knew and loved.

Ali, Bowie, Prince - just this weekend Caroline Aherne - while back in February Earth, Wind and Fire's founder Maurice White passed on after a battle with Parkinson's Disease.

"We live in a negative society," White informed Newsweek at the peak of the band's success. "Most people can't see beauty and love. I see our music as medicine."

Even without White's guiding hand, they're still dispensing it. His passing was acknowledged on two occasions on giant screens behind the 12-piece band, bringing appreciative "aahs" from the audience.

But this wasn't a night for mournful contemplation. The rain teemed outside, but inside a mixed crowd of forty, fifty and sixty-somethings, plus plenty of youngsters "who might have been conceived to Earth, Wind and Fire songs," according to Philip Bailey, bounced, clapped and partied.

Three members from the early days remain - Bailey on vocals, Verdine White on bass and Ralph Johnson on percussion - along with a sassy, tight backing band.

It was Ralph's birthday on Monday night - a still-youthful 65 - and Bailey sang Happy Birthday to him.

Bailey himself reached that landmark age two months ago, but he still possesses astonishing vocal prowess - with some of his trademark falsettos genuinely startling.

"They call him The Voice," said Verdine admiringly. "Like wine, he gets better with age."

So do his co-stars. The Arena was awash with smiles throughout - while Bailey's performance in the schmaltzy tear jerker, After the Love Has Gone, meant that there were even beaming faces throughout that ballad to lost love.

The closing arrangement brought an excellent evening to a soaring crescendo.

Fantasy, September and Let's Groove are all classics - each good enough to stand as a show-stopper on their own. But, put together as a closing sequence, they provide a spectacular finale.

It was the latest starlet on the songwriting block, 22-year-old Jake Bugg, who declared at this year's Glastonbury Festival he'd rather watch Earth, Wind and Fire than Coldplay.

On Monday night, Liverpool nodded its collective head in agreement. There were no flashing wristbands, but sincere appreciation of a truly legendary band. .....

Sincere appreciation a truly legendary band. - Earth, Wind and Fire at the ECHO Arena on Monday night CHOICE

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As tight, exuberant, vibrant and downright joyous as they've ever been - music legends Earth, Wind and Fire on the Echo Arena stage on Monday night Picture: DAVID MUNN
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jul 6, 2016
Words:527
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