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Earth, Wind & Fire turns Buffalo into 'Boogie Wonderland'

Musical tastes are so varied and there are so many genres that it’s a fool’s errand to come up with any universal truism.

Except for the obvious one: When a jolt is needed for any party, from backyard barbecue to formal wedding reception, “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire never fails.

Likewise, no matter the year or the ever-changing lineup, Earth, Wind & Fire never fails to entertain.

The band that has demonstrated through a staggering number of hit songs over almost as many decades that horn music could be just as rockin’ as screaming guitars – and twice as funky – brought a high-energy show to KeyBank Center Friday night.

“The Elements” displayed their trademark mix of dance, harmony, percussion and theatricality and made an audience that tended closer to mid-Baby Boomer than millennial get up and stay up for close to 90 minutes.

Chic featuring Nile Rodgers performs at the KeyBank Center on Friday. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News)

But just to be absolutely certain that the arena’s seats would not be overused while its floor would take a beating from dancers, disco-era legend Chic, led by recently inducted Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Nile Rodgers, opened the show.

A late-arriving crowd – Have Buffalo concert-goers still not figured out that they need to get to the arena 15 minutes early to make it through security? – made it look like Buffalo was not in the mood to relive the late-’70s that Chic dominated.

But we needn’t have worried; the city that is the home of the World’s Largest Disco eventually showed up and was ready to boogie.

Thanks to a collection of immediately recognizable hits, Rodgers and Co. put on a show that seemed like it couldn’t be topped. Sometime between “Let’s Dance” and “Good Times,” you might have forgotten that this wasn’t the show you came for.

You would be forgiven. Playing hits that he either wrote or co-wrote – “Dance, Dance, Dance,” “Freak Out,” “Let’s Dance” and “We Are Family” to name four – Rodgers and his ensemble put on a show that deserves to be a headliner.

But this was a night that belonged to Earth, Wind & Fire. Led by the still-powerful vocals of Philip Bailey, the band ran through its own collection of hits.

It wasn’t all about the songs that still play on radio today. At one point Bailey asked if this audience was made up of “true” fans, the ones who know not just the songs that made it to the top 10 on the charts, but the top 10 in their hearts.

Those fans were there. But there’s no denying the timelessness of those hit songs, like “Shining Star” and “Sing a Song” that opened the show or “Boogie Wonderland” that came near the end. When the first notes of those or other mega-hits were heard, an audible “Aww” rose up, followed by applause and then, of course, singing.

That’s really what the night was about. True fans or not, the appeal of shows like the one on Friday is that they allow an audience of a certain age to relive the moments when neither they nor these songs were oldies.

Nile Rodgers called them “Good Times.”

Earth, Wind & Fire might have said it even better in the opening lyrics to “September,” the song that never fails: Do you remember?


Earth, Wind & Fire with Nile Rodgers and Chic

Friday night in KeyBank Center




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