Last night, at the O2 arena-the largest single-roofed structure in the world, my brother and I witnessed the legend that is Stevie Wonder.
It was quite surreal for two reasons.
One, because in the space of a year, I have seen two out of three of my musical heroes; Stevie Wonder and Prince (M.Jackson being the third).
Two, because I saw them both at the O2 arena which is in Greenwich, my borough in London, 10 minutes from my home.
After getting in a quick, mandatory Nandos beforehand, we made our way to our seats, B3 Row D.
Let me quickly sidetrack and say that it was quite difficult to get hold of these tickets….they went on sale on a Monday morning at 9am exclusively through Ticketmaster…. and I was on the phone before 9am, at 9am and after 9am….
Turns out they were sold out before they officially went on sale?! (thank you ‘pre-sale’-the latest in concert sales gimmicks).
Luckily, I managed to get hold of a pair of tickets at a very good price, from a well known internet source….
Anyway, I digest…
After clearing security quicker than Roadrunner on Red Bull, we waited patiently in our seats, watching the arena fill up until around 9pm, when Stevie Wonder appeared to a rapturous applause from over 20,000 revellers.
The legend arrived on stage helped by his daughter, Aisha Morris.
He was dressed in a black coat with extremely funky and garish sleeves.
I did wonder [excuse the pun] if he would have worn the coat had he seen it first….anyway….
Rather than go through the concert song by song, i’ll just give the playlist for the evening, and summarise my thoughts.
It was over 2 hours long and the playlist for the evening was as follows:….
- As If You Read My Mind
- Master Blaster
- Did I Hear You Say Love Me?
- All I Do
- Knock Me Off My Feet
- London Bridge [Is Falling Down] (yes, the nursery rhyme, not Fergie, Motown stylee)
- I Want To Hold Your Hand (Beatles cover)
- Don’t You Worry About A Thing
- Living For The City
- Part Time Lover
- Ribbon In The Sky
- Ma Cherie Amour
- Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours
- Sir Duke
- I Wish
- Isn’t She Lovely?
- You Are The Sunshine Of My Love
- I Just Called To Say I Love You
- War [What Is It Good For?] (Cover)
The talented tour band belted out the funk with back up singers, whilst Stevie carried the main vocals, playing the piano or keys (at one point, simultaneously) singing in his characteristic soulful gospel-esque voice.
It was amazing to see that the quality, power, range and dynamism of Stevie’s voice sounding little unchanged from his heyday of the mid 70s. Still blowing his contemporaries out of the water.
The atmosphere was electric.
Click here to hear/see Stevie on the ‘talk box circa 70s….. (29 secs in). Amazing.
At one point he had all the guys in the audience singing the intro to ‘Part Time Lover’ whilst the women sang the chorus over it, all in harmony. Not being able to see, and conducting a mostly tone deaf audience of 20,000 isn’t an easy feat…..
Half way through the set, Joss Stone joined Stevie for ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m yours,’ though I don’t think the crowd were particularly amped about that…..
The lyrics of Stevie Wonder’s songs address social problems (Living For The City,) pay homage to other musical greats (Sir Duke), are full pure positivity (Don’t You Worry ’bout a Thing), dream of a better future (Visions) and beautiful ballads (Ma Cherie Amour) to songs about wishful reminiscing (I Wish) and just plain beauty (As).
The great thing about Stevie Wonder is that his back catalogue of music is rivalled by very few (except maybe Prince). He has had hits in every decade from the ’60s to the ’00s. Very few artists can claim that. If you ‘dig’ any modern soul/rnb artist worth his salt, they will claim Stevie Wonder as one of their biggest influences, and for good reason too.
Each song he played evoked a difference reaction in the crowd and for each member associated with a different memory, from a different decade.
Music brings people together, but i’ve rarely seen it bring people from different generations like this performer did.
Stevie Wonder’s music is far less risque than Prince.
It is consistently inclusive and definitely spiritual.
In fact, throughout the concert, Stevie Wonder made references to God, Unity, the coming together of ‘one human family’-our common humanity. The whole concert was in the spirit of love, Stevie repeatedly telling the audience ‘I Love You’, to hear ‘We Love You’ back… a sharp contrast to other concerts I have seen recently.
He said during the concert that the atmosphere felt like his ‘church.’
One thing of interest was Stevie Wonder’s support for U.S. Presidential hopeful; Barack Obama, to which initially, the audience cheered for, but began to grow a little weary by the second ‘plug’ (most likely because the audience paid to hear Stevie perform, not campaign).
Interspersed through the concert was his love for the audience, saying how much he missed playing in London and it was glad to be back. In fact it was the death of his mother a few years ago that prompted him to begin his first tour in a decade, dedicating his last song to her; As. This being the 3rd time he was playing London on this tour.
I won’t say what my favourite song is, there were too many, and many he didn’t play….
What I will say is that I’m happy to have experienced the Wonder that is Stevie, seeing the man responsible for a musical style that is often imitated but rarely innovated.
That’s my review, signed, sealed, delivered, and yours.