Las Vegas Sun

May 27, 2018

Currently: 80° — Complete forecast

Earth, Wind & Fire brings the groove to the Venetian

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From left, Verdine White, Philip Bailey and Ralph Johnson lead Earth, Wind & Fire to the Venetian this week.

When we last encountered Earth, Wind & Fire in Las Vegas—in July at the Pearl Theatre—it was for an epic, soulful funkfest, a nostalgic and quasi-psychedelic trip into the timeless R&B band’s diverse catalog that flowed freely but never let up. It was absolute musical escapism, a two-hour break from the cruelties of reality.

“It’s different, you know. Our music has a vibe so when you come to the show, you definitely walk into that,” says Verdine White, the band’s boundless bass player and one of three original members (with Philip Bailey and Ralph Johnson) currently touring. “We’re there to make people feel good. That’s not a space that you live in all the time, like you’re hypnotized, but maybe it’s part of your consciousness when you get onstage. We’re playing music that resonates in a certain way and our fans and followers like that and understand it and appreciate it.”

Earth, Wind & Fire is bringing “Shining Star,” “September,” “Let’s Groove,” “Fantasy” and its many other genre- and decades-spanning hits to the Venetian tonight for a six-show run. Like iconic blues rockers ZZ Top, who vacated the theater after a similar session last weekend, this is EWF’s first time playing Vegas for more than a couple nights.

“It’s a good place to play, so much fun and a lot of excitement,” says White of the Strip.

EWF has been playing Vegas since the 1970s and has long been known as one of the most powerful live acts in the business. Its legacy is built on a rich sound—including those unforgettable horns—and decades of energetic performances, both reasons why the group continues to thrive after founder, band leader and White’s older brother Maurice White passed away two years ago. He had stopped touring with the band in the 1990s due to complications from Parkinson’s disease.

“We went through all of it when Maurice stopped touring so we were ready when it happened, in terms of performing and [moving on] as a band,” White says. “We had his blessing and were very well-prepared. Had it happened back in the ’90s, I don’t think there would have been a band. We weren’t ready or mature enough.”

Today EWF has multiple generations of members to match his multiple generations of fans. Bailey’s son Philip Bailey Jr. assists with vocals and percussion and is an essential part of the live show.

“It’s really made us a big ensemble of wonderful guys who love and respect each other,” says White.

Earth, Wind & Fire performs at 8 p.m. on May 2, 4, 5, 9, 11 and 12 at the Venetian Theatre (3555 Las Vegas Blvd. South, 702-414-1000) and more information can be found at venetian.com.