Concert Review: Earth, Wind & Fire Turned Charleston into a Boogie Wonderland

Music With Friends
September 23, 2011

By T. Ballard Lesemann

CHARLESTON, S.C. — If you were walking around downtown Charleston Wednesday evening and felt the ground rumbling, it wasn’t an earthquake. More than likely what you were feeling were the funky bass notes that were pulsating from Verdine White’s bass guitar as Earth, Wind & Fire (EWF) treated a small but appreciative audience at the Dock Street Theatre to a ninety-minute set of classic funk and R&B music.

Yes, you read that correctly; Earth, Wind & Fire, perhaps one of the biggest R&B acts in music history, performed at the recently renovated Dock Street Theatre. Yeah, I couldn’t believe it either.

The concert came courtesy of Music With Friends, a local music club that started in Charlotte four years ago, and opened a chapter here in the Lowcountry this year. Members pay a membership fee and then yearly dues, which get them three shows by big name artists at the Dock Street. The historic performance space on Church St. downtown holds about 500 people.

I’ve been in coliseums with bathrooms bigger than the Dock Street’s main floor.

That’s not meant to be insulting to the venue, quite the opposite in fact. The intimacy between band and audience is one of the best things about Music With Friends at the Dock Street.

Even sitting in the last row of seats in the balcony, it appeared that no one was ever more than a couple of hundred feet from the stage. I was personally worried about how a band like EWF would sound in a venue as compact as the Dock Street. I needn’t have worried. The band took to the stage at 8:30 and quickly launched into “Boogie Wonderland,” which was a hit for the band in 1979 alongside The Emotions.

It was a good choice for an opener, because the crowd was immediately out of their seats and dancing in the aisles. Original EWF members Verdine White, Ralph Johnson, and Philip Bailey were backed by a band of amazing musicians that even included Bailey’s son, Philip Bailey Jr.