Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band Earth, Wind & Fire shared the stage with soulful crooners The Isley Brothers for a one-of-a-kind Easter Sunday (April 4) presentation of Verzuz. The midwest produced “real music” from the 1950s through the 2010s — meaning the iconic acts have secured over 60 years in the music industry that include classic records.
DJ D-Nice was the official music maestro for the evening. He warmed up the crowd promptly with cookout jams from the 1970s and 1980s disco era, which set the virtual family reunion vibes for cross-generational viewers. Celebrities like Janelle Monae, Shannon Sharpe, Alicia Keys, Fred Hammond, Tank, Solange, Questlove, Brent Faiyaz and Juicy J were among the hundreds of thousands of viewers who joined the hours-long broadcast. D Nice also premiered his new funk-inspired single “No Plans for Love” featuring Ne-Yo and Kent Jones.
Host Steve Harvey took the stage about 10 minutes into the show to set the tone and emphasize the history unfolding live. “These boys were making hits before there were cell phones. Ask your mama and ‘em. This is ‘baby making’ music. This is ‘clean up the house on Saturday morning’ music. This is when I was so poor I didn’t have nothing but music,” he said about the memories this genre-bending music evokes.
Check out some of the best moments of the night below!
1. Steve Harvey’s Easter Suit
Dripped in a custom Dolce Gabbana monochrome periwinkle suit and fierce wide brim white hat, Harvey was proud to show up and show out with some of his childhood musical influences. He shared anecdotes about trying to mimic the periodic fashions of The Isley Brothers’ capes, and suits donned by the members of Earth, Wind & Fire. “I had to come with some flavor because you cannot mess with The Isley Brothers and Earth Wind & Fire,” the comedian and syndicated media personality said. The suit was topped off with a fine cuban cigar for peak pimp vibes.
2. Ron Isley’s Fur
With 66 platinum records under his belt, Ronald Isley stood out on stage initially appearing in luxurious black and white floor-length fur coat. While many fans didn’t recognize him at first due to his new all white beard, they couldn’t help but notice the Big Zaddy energy the king of R&B effortlessly served. In the second half, he and Ernie presented a costume change and switched from their black and silver looks to distinguished gold ensembles.
3. Verdine’s Easter Press
As if Earth, Wind & Fire’s bassist would be caught slipping on the Lord’s day. Verdine’s signature long, straightened mane was shining, bouncing and behaving all night as The Elements sang along to their hits like “The Way of the World,” “Boogie Wonderland,” and “Let’s Groove.”
4. The Enthusiasm to Perform
Three songs in, the Chicago-founded band Earth, Wind & Fire had to get up from their seats to outright perform “Keep Your Head To The Sky” in full three-part harmony complete with studio-quality lead vocals from front-man Philip Bailey. “In your living room, in the backyard, come on and sing it!” he said as the group reached the bridge of the iconic tune.
Not to be outdone, Ernie grabbed his electric guitar to accompany his brother Ron on lead vocals to perform a stripped down rendition of “(At Your Best) You Are Love.” Many viewers couldn’t help but take the moment to remember Aaliyah who performed a 1994 cover on her debut album, Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number.
5. Ernie Isley on the Art of the Compliment
“We always wanted to use our songs to compliment women. Any of our love songs, if you listen to it from that point of view, it’s a compliment to a woman,” Ernie said of a music catalogue with over 30 studio albums. “Soul music is just different. Everyone loves a good song, and we’re sitting here with two groups who took the time to write ‘lyrically sound’ lyrics,” Harvey said.
6. “Summer Breeze”
The Isley Brothers got everyone on their feet when DJ D-Nice played “Summer Breeze.” The feel-good vibe made Harvey two-step to the front of the stage as Earth, Wind & Fire stood to show their camaraderie. Likewise, Ron returned the favor by signing a duet with the late Earth, Wind & Fire lead Maurice White on “Be Ever Wonderful.”
7. Mack Lessons from Uncle Steve Harvey
In a walk down memory lane, Harvey called out today’s club atmosphere. “Today they don’t play any slow songs. In my day, we’d go to the DJ booth to say, ‘Hey man. What’s up?! What you think we here for?’ the host said about setting the tone for the opportunity to talk to women at a party. Since there was no social media, men had to shoot their shot in real time or lose the chance forever.
8. The Samples
Music fans understand the influence these artists have had on the music industry for over five decades, and that impact can be found in popular samples from Ice Cube’s flawless use of The Isley Brothers’ “Footsteps in the Dark” for his hood tale “Today Was a Good Day” to The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Big Poppa” sample of “Between the Sheets” to Aaliyah’s rendition of “Choosey Lover.”
1990s hip hop bops “Party Ain’t A Party” by Queen Pen and “Jamboree” by Naughty By Nature samples Earth, Wind and Fire’s iconic “On Your Face.” Even Gospel track “I Get Joy” by Coko from SWV taps into the funky horn section.
9. The Duet
Just after Harvey poured a little Ciroc out for the homies, The Isley Brothers took the mic to belt out “For The Love of You” with a little help from Earth, Wind & Fire. Phillip Bailey joined Ron on lead and the other members of The Elements held down the background. The host even got the chance to live out his childhood fantasy of singing with the music icons, too!
10. New Music?!
Ron accidentally revealed that a new collaboration between the two bands was on the way. If tonight’s Verzuz presentation was any indication, a new song between the acts will definitely blaze the charts. Earth, Wind & Fire’s last studio release was in 2014 and The Isley Brothers’ in 2017. And while they owe nothing more to the culture, fans would be delighted to have a joint project as part of their extraordinary legacies.
11. The Energy
For all of these men to be in their golden years, there was no shortage of the energy. After intermission, the crew caught their second wind and went in! Watching Harvey two-step with the best of them and get his life along with the performers was quite the treat. He was all of us in our living rooms either dancing alone or with a broom in-hand as he started throwing stuff off the stage when his jams’ beats started dropping.
12. If “I Does This” Was A Person
The final song of the evening was Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September”— the official Electric Slide anthem. But, it was Ernie’s guitar solo that stole the show. As the night came to a close, The Isley Brothers’ final song was “Who’s That Lady.” Ernie used this time to shine and really showcased his skill, as the 69-year-old guitarist played lead with the instrument behind his back, upside down and with his tongue. He eat and left no crumbs!
Check out Tidal’s Verzuz playlist of the drippy showdown below!