By Nickie Wang
Sitting on a table placed at the center of an illuminated fiberglass platform and doing an interview is not a comfortable idea. What more when the people around the table are members of an international band that has sold more than 90 million records, earned six Grammys, and produced dozens of hit singles in a musical career that spans almost four decades.
Recently, we were told that Earth Wind & Fire is coming to Manila to stage a one-night concert at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City. As soon as they arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, the legendary band and its entourage were driven directly to Hotel Sofitel for the interviews with members of the press.
Due to traffic congestion around the area, and since it was Friday, only a few made it on time at Siete Pecados. The press conference became a one-on-one interview (the road manager was so strict about the schedule). At first, EWF members looked like they were snooty; for us it was okay because we knew beforehand that they haven’t rested since they would be meeting the press an hour after their arrival. But their enthusiasm was revealed as soon as they arrived at the venue and talked about performing before Filipino crowd for the third time.
“We’ve always had a great time being here in the Philippines and to perform before all our Filipino fans has always been a great pleasure,” Philip Bailey started and asked us, “By the way, what song would you like to hear in the concert? We can perform all the hits that you want.”
EWF is best known for hits like “Reasons,” “Fantasy,” “September,” “Sing A Song,” “Boogie Wonderland,” “After the Love Has Gone,” “Let’s Groove” among many others. The band, according to Bailey, first visited the country in the ’80s and then in the ’90s.
“It’s interesting to be here again because I remember during our first visits, the audiences were massive and they knew all our songs. They sang and danced with us,” Bailey, leader and co-founder of Earth, Wind & Fire, recalled.
The musician was particular with their hit “Devotion,” which the band actually dedicates to its Filipino fans because as what Bailey said: “Surprisingly the crowd knew the lyrics of the entire song. The crowd sang the song so loud that we consider it as one of our best concerts ever because the audience participation was so loud and dynamic. ”
The band remembers the local crowd as energetic people, “And aside from that, people here have lots of soul and lots of talent,” Bailey added.
The fact that EWF hasn’t been here for almost 20 years is, “Automatically new for the band and for the audience as well.” According to its members, the group is currently touring Asia. The first pit stop was Singapore followed by Kuala Lumpur. After its performance in the Philippines the band will stage a series of concert in four cities in Japan before it embarks on another one-night concert in Seoul, South Korea.
EWF is one of the most revered bands on the American music scene having influenced more than a handful of talents. It has influenced music artists like Usher, will.i.am, Mary J. Blige, Prince, Pharrell Williams, Phil Collins, Babyface, Jamiroquai, Lenny Kravitz, Eric Benét, Justin Timberlake, to name a few.
Just recently, before getting on its Asian concert tour, the band has teamed up with animated character Cleveland Brown of The Cleveland Show to record a new holiday song called “Get Your Hump On This Christmas.”
According to the promoter of the concert, sales of tickets even with just a little publicity and considering that the ticket prices were high, surprised many Filipinos. Indeed, Filipinos love the Original Earth, Wind, & Fire, and its concert, just like the previous ones—explosive and full of energy performing songs of elements of Latin, American, African, soul, pop, and jazz music.
“What’s rewarding about staying in the business for a long time is that we get to have a diverse audience. And to know that you and your parents can stay in one room and enjoy our music gives us an assurance that we can still be around for another more years,” said Verdine White, who occasionally supported Bailey in answering our questions.
“With that, we could stay for another forty years I guess,” Bailey butted in and made his band mates laugh. “I’ll go for thirty,” said Ralph Johnson.
Our 10 minutes with the Original Earth, Wind & Fire was up but the band still took its time to give a message to its Filipino fans.
“It’s always been a great pleasure to be back here, and we thank you for all the support. The concert is our way of saying ‘we enjoy being here.’ The amount of energy that everybody shows whenever we’re here is always fantastic. Filipinos are really warm people.”