By Evan Thompson / Herald Writer
A lot’s changed since the 1970s.
Gas prices have gone up. Laws are different.
But enjoying Earth, Wind & Fire? That hasn’t changed. Neither has Kalimba’s passion for performing Earth, Wind & Fire’s greatest hits. The Everett-based band is returning to the Historic Everett Theatre on March 10.
Lead vocalist Chazz Smith of Everett has been a fan of the multi-genre band ever since he was a kid growing up in Oakland, California. Emulating the spirit and passion of Earth, Wind & Fire (EWF) is always the goal when Kalimba is on stage.
“It transcends you back in time for sure,” Smith said. “We’ve been around the country, and people have been through so many things. But the music is always uplifting you. It always feels good to listen to it, and it still does today.”
Smith does his part to replicate the stage presence of EWF founder and lead vocalist Maurice White. The band, formed in 2011, includes a keyboardist, saxophonists, guitarists, another singer and a full horn and rhythm section to replicate the grooves from EWF originals Verdine White and Ralph Johnson.
Though Kalimba uses modern equipment, it’s modified to reproduce the vintage sound from the time, including the vocoder used in “Let’s Groove.”
Kalimba tours around the country and overseas to plays shows at music festivals, state fairs and private parties, from places like Nashville, Tennessee, to as far away as Moscow, Russia.
Much to Smith’s surprise, the Russians knew all the lyrics.
“They were singing right along with us,” Smith said.
Kalimba is a mainstay at the Historic Everett Theatre. Theater manager Curt Shriner said Kalimba is one of the few bands that returns every year.
“Because they’re so good,” Shriner said. “The singer is spot on. The arrangements are great. It’s like you close your eyes and you think you’re at an Earth, Wind and Fire Concert.”
Craig Lee, the band’s tour manager, said Kalimba is well-received by the greater Everett area. The crowds have steadily grown since Kalimba’s first show at the theater in 2016.
“It gets better and better,” Lee said.
Kalimba’s set list changes every few months, but expect to hear everything from “September” to “Boogie Wonderland” during the one-hour-and-30-minute show.
Even the biggest EWF enthusiasts may have to dig into their crates to find the other songs they’ll play.
“Let’s just say we’re definitely going to have some of the favorites,” Smith said. “We’ll also take you to school and remind you of some of the things that you have to go back on an eight-track to find.”
Kalimba was created much the same way as EWF — with a lead vocalist. White formed EWF in 1970; the band later sold 90 million records and received 20 Grammy nominations.
Smith followed in his idol’s footsteps more than four decades later when he drew musicians in from around the Puget Sound area.
Kalimba wasn’t an instant hit. It took some time to gain traction, but Smith is content with where things are.
“It’s taken a few years for the band to get tight and get to this point, but we’re happy to be presenting it properly,” Smith said.
He said returning home to Everett for a show is always fun for the band.
“It’s a pleasure doing this music, and even more (of a) pleasure to come home and get in front of the family and friends and let them see what we’ve been up to all year,” he said.
If you go
Kalimba, The Spirit of Earth, Wind & Fire performs at 8 p.m. March 10 at the Historic Everett Theatre, 2911 Colby Ave., Everett. Ticket prices range from $12 to $25. Call 425-258-6766 or go to www.historiceveretttheatre.org to purchase tickets.