Two of the greatest bands of all-time, Chicago and Earth, Wind & Fire, culminated their Heart and Soul Tour 2.0 with another exhilarating concert on April 18, 2016 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The two super groups opened on stage together, performing the 1969 Chicago classic “Beginnings,” and seamlessly segued into a EW&F hit from the same year, “In The Stone.” They followed with Chicago’s “Dialogue” from 1972, accompanied by video of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, and President Barack Obama.
Earth, Wind and Fire lead vocalist Phil Bailey was full of praise for his tour mates, saying, “We congratulate Chicago on being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (April 8, 2016). “The Fire” was inducted in 2000, making the Heart and Soul 2.0 Tour also the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Tour. Chicago keyboardist and vocalist Robert Lamm commented how the two bands complement each other. “We stand out here together,” he said, “spreading positive messages, which we still need today.”
Following the joint opening, the “Elements of the Universe (EW&F) took the audience for a wondrous tour through their amazing 45 year repertoire, beginning with the instrumentals, “Africano” and Power.” “Boogie Wonderland” brought the audience to its feet to dance, and then reminisce about the group’s enduring legacy during “Serpentine Fire,” viewing vintage video of the late group founder Maurice White. His brother, Verdine White, demonstrated once again he’s one of the world’s charismatic bass players during his electrifying solo.
The most poignant moment of the concert followed “Devotion,” in a brief and dramatic tribute to the passing of Maurice White on February 4, 2016. As the music of the African instrument kalimba played (an instrument he pioneered), the band remained still in darkness. A portrait of White performing was projected behind the stage, as the crowd applauded in admiration of the one greatest men in modern music.
The group’s anthem “That’s The Way of the World” mesmerized the crowd as always, featuring the hypnotic guitar solo by Morris O’Connor. Bailey commented, “Some of you were conceived to Earth, Wind and Fire music, so that makes us your musical godfathers,” before showcasing his incredible vocals during the EW&F Grammy award winning ballad, “After The Love Is Gone.” Percussionist/vocalist Ralph Johnson remarked, “I call him ‘The Voice.’ Like a fine wine, he gets better, and better, and better.” Bailey more than lived up to his lofty compliment, as he took the crowd’s breath away, again, and again, during his triumphant, highlight performance of his signature song, “Reasons.” Then the band turned up the pace again to party mood, closing with “Got To Get You Into My Life,” “Fantasy” and “Let’s Groove” as Madison Square Garden was transformed into an enormous dance floor.
Chicago kicked off their set with the first single of their career, “Questions 67 & 68” from 1969, followed by their first Top Ten hit, “Make Me Smile” from 1970. Original member, trumpet player Lee Loughnane, took the vocal lead on “Colour My World.” One of the band’s assets is multiple lead vocalists, and keyboardist Lou Pardini displayed his impressive range on “Call On Me” from 1974. Chicago is one of the most multifaceted groups, blending a wide variety of styles, and Lamm recalled how their versatility posed a problem on how to market their music early in their career. “When we started out, we are confusing to everybody,” he remembered, “playing R&B, psychedelic rock, and jazz.”
Now 47 years later, their eclectic style is what makes their sound unique. Power ballads have always been their forte, as exemplified by “Hard Habit To Break” from 1984 featuring Pardini and bassist Jason Scheff. The band has been criticized for their “soft rock” sound, however Chicago can definitely get funky, as demonstrated by “I’m A Man” from 1971, featuring a percolating drum/percussion duel between Tris Imboden and Walfredo Reyes, Jr. After flexing their muscle, the band returned to a mellow mood for their 1982 number one single “Hard To Say I’m Sorry” led by Scheff, followed by the 1972 Chicago classic, “Saturday In The Park,” with images of New York City’s iconic Central Park. The new Hall of Fame members closed out their set rockin’ the Garden with “Feelin’ Stronger Every Day.”
The Heart and Soul Tour 2.0 saved the best for last as Earth, Wind and Fire shared the stage again with Chicago, raising the floor of Madison Square Garden for a frenzied grand finale. The Fire’s “September” was hotter than ever with Bailey joined by Lamm, Scheff and Pardini on lead vocals. The party continued with Chicago’s “Free,” followed EW&F’s “Sing A Song” as Pardini and Scheff raised their soulfulness to another level. The legendary groups delighted in performing their respective classics together, including “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” (Chicago), “Shining Star” (Earth, Wind and Fire), and the climatic song, “25 or 6 To 4” led by the dynamic duo of Bailey and Scheff.
Earth, Wind & Fire/Chicago Heart and Soul 2.0 set the standard for 2016 concert tours!