Masaharu Yoshioka- Soul Searchin’ Music Critic’s Diary (December 2010)
Al McKay All Stars Live At Billboard Live (Osaka & Tokyo)
The Al McKay All Stars Recreate The Sound Of EWF When They Shined!
The Al McKay All Stars’ live show, led by Al McKay, the talented former EWF guitar player and one of their songwriters, showered the crowd with songs from the years when Earth, Wind & Fire were at the top of their game. The last time they were in Japan was exactly a year ago (December 2009). Will this become a tradition every December?
By any measure, they are indeed a solid, funky and soulful group. What they basically do is whip up the crowd, make them dance, dance, dance and take them off to Boogie Wonderland! In between, they perform those ballads like “After The Love Has Gone,” “Reasons” (Tim Owens on vocals and Ed Wynne on saxophone do an amazing dialog here, one of the highlights of the show!), and “Can’t Hide Love.” The ballads and the up-tempo dance songs project a wondrous contrast. The band skillfully play the hard and soft notes of the songs and are in full control of the crowd. Their stage manner and presence are those of the ultimate entertainer, which has been refined over the last quarter-of-a-century by top-notch live performances.
The Al McKay All Stars’ set list also included, “Let Groove” (1981), the most recent song and “That’s The Way Of The World” (1975), the earliest song. You guessed it! Their set list included songs from Earth, Wind & Fire’s best years, when they were at their pinnacle, EWF fans couldn’t ask for more!
Let’s take “Magic Mind,” where the horns really stand out. The horns stop, the stage goes dark and a spotlight shines on Al McKay at the center of the stage. It is the moment when Al shines! Then there’s “That’s The Way Of The World,” where the 3 vocalists surround Al and make him take center stage during his solo! Otherwise, Al stays back and steadily but positively cuts a sure rhythm with his trusted guitar.
The MC did not forget to express words of condolences on the passing of Teena Marie either.
The entire crowd was jumping up and down during “September.” For their encore, the band performed “Boogie Wonderland,” which they did not play last year then went straight into their finale, “Let’s Groove.” The crowd on the first floor were all on their feet halfway into the show. Al McKay is, of course, a Shining Star, too! This is one show I would definitely want to see every year!