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MUSIC REVIEW

Earth, Wind & Fire takes fans back to the glittery days of disco

It was quite a case of Tuesday night fever when disco icons Earth, Wind & Fire launched a new tour at the Bank of America Pavilion. Hits ``Shining Star" and ``Boogie Wonderland" were shined up to a sparkle, glittering reminders of the band's '70s heyday under the mirror ball. This string of shows is dubbed the Illuminate Love Tour in honor of the band's latest CD, ``Illumination," but the show was distinctly nostalgic. Few would have had it any other way.

It was impressive, however, that after three decades EW&F didn't simply parrot old hits. The band didn't take a single moment for granted. Its warmth and enthusiasm for song and audience felt genuine, with no pumping up the hits into false epics. Disco is not music simply to listen to, however. It's dance music and not well-suited for an audience packed tightly into rows of confining seats.

Vocalist Philip Bailey, funky bassist Verdine White (who had the twitchy energy of a Red Bull addict), and percussionist-singer Ralph Johnson -- all founding members of the band -- led an impressive ensemble. But it was when the musicians displayed a jazzier side that Earth, Wind & Fire really thrilled. Especially when, for one instrumental jam, the rhythmic interplay between the two percussionists and drummer became a mesmerizing exchange, topped by a heady trombone and spiked with electric piano.

Though the vocals weren't quite so earthy, the prowess was undeniable: Bailey's soprano hit soaring highs. Such souffle-light R&B ballads as ``After the Love Has Gone" whipped EW&F's signature falsetto harmonies into an almost unnatural airy high, and for the jazzy highlight ``Got to Get You Into My Life," those watertight harmonies were lowered to a smooth groove.

Jazz trumpeter Chris Botti led his stellar four-piece band in a commanding opening set that switched between mannered smooth jazz and keen instrumentals with experimental soloing.

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