Earth, Wind & Fire Returns to Their College Roots to Celebrate Colgate’s Bicentennial Weekend

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Julia Klein, Karrie Spychalski and Mara Stein

The 22nd of September certainly was a night to remember as seven-time Grammy winning band Earth, Wind & Fire performed in Sanford Field House.

The free concert was the main event of Colgate’s Bicentennial Kickoff weekend. According to the Office of Special Events, there were approximately 5,000 students, alumni, parents and community members in attendance.

Known for their R&B hits and instrumentation, Earth, Wind & Fire is the latest notable feature brought to campus as part of the Kerschner Family Series Global Leaders at Colgate. Beginning in 2007, the series has welcomed speakers including President Bill Clinton, Shimon Peres, Aretha Franklin and Vice President Joe Biden to Colgate.

Jazmyn McKoy ’17 opened the show, performing songs including Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Mckoy has performed at Colgate on numerous occasions, including the 2017 Martin Luther King Jr. Week celebration and 2018 annual Gospel Fest concert. She also performed in the University Choir as a student.

Opening with hits “Sing a Song” and “Shining Star,” Earth, Wind & Fire filled the stage with its signature horns and syncopated percussion rhythms. During the opening, audience members tossed around giant, inflatable LED-lit balls to the rhythm of the music.

The group continued with hits of varied tempos from their repertoire, including “Getaway,” “Jupiter,” “Serpentine Fire” and “Let’s Groove.”

“[It was] so much fun to be a part of the multigenerational community enjoying [Earth, Wind & Fire’s] amazing sound,” Karen Shahidi, who graduated with the class of 1988 and is now the parent of two Colgate students, sophomore Sarah Shahidi and senior Ally Shahidi, said.

“I had almost forgotten how much I enjoyed the horn section and Phillip Bailey’s falsetto really brought me back to listening in my old dorm room. [It was] just a wonderful experience for [my husband] and I to share with our girls and friends, new and old,” Shahidi said.

During “Way of the World,” the band introduced themselves. Three members of the original group, which formed in 1969, are still actively performing. Philip Bailey (percussion), Verdine White (bass) and Ralph Johnson (drums) have played together for 45 years. Bailey said that the band reminisced in the car ride to the concert about playing colleges in central New York when the band first began, as college students were the first to catch onto its sound.

The crowd was on their feet during the performance of platinum certified single,“September.” The band continued instrumentals while Bailey led the audience in a competition during the song’s infamous “Ba-Dee-Ya” bridge, challenging each side of the crowd to sing louder than the other.

“Today, the football team won 45 to nothing [during the Homecoming game against Lafayette]. So we want to outdo the football team,” Bailey said.

The band additionally extended numbers, including “Boogie,” as an opportunity for them to feature solo instrumentalists. These solos included Bailey’s falsetto vocals and lead White’s bass improvisations.

Fans rushed toward the stage to demand an encore, and then danced during an encore performance of “In the Stone.” At the end of the concert, band members gave out their song sheets and drum sticks as memorabilia to fans.

Percussionist Ralph Johnson took care to autograph and hand his last drumstick to 11-year-old audience member Teddy Freith. Freith said he was “excited” and “surprised” by Johnson’s gesture.

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