I wanted to write this last night right after the concert but I got too tired with all that singing and yes, dancing!
The concert started 8:40PM with Stevie Wonder entering the stage escorted by his daughter Ayeisha of ‘Isn’t she Lovely’ fame (remember the line, ‘life is Ayeisha, only a minute old’?). Instead of going to straight to the piano and singing, he and his band did a jazz waltz Miles Davis number where he played harmonica. He then proceeded to the piano and followed it up with a relatively unknown number from a recent album called ‘As if you read my mind’. Then it was “Master Blaster’ , and on and on it went.
Stevie Wonder, the legendary singer-songwriter started performing when he was 13 or so, and has been performing non-stop since. As I watched him, I tried to get into his mind and see where he was coming from. I saw a man who lives and breathes music and is overflowing with positivity. He was so unbelievably infectious in his joy for what he was doing. And yes, he sang great, still in the original keys of his recorded material. His bursting vocal improvisations were still novel, different from the original recordings and had that fresh Stevie Wonder touch.
He performed generously and enthusiastically for his audience with his big hits, and not surprisingly, like many seasoned performers, he also took the time to feed his soul with music he simply liked to do. In this latter list were songs like ‘Visions in my mind’, a non-hit song only a few fanatics like me would know, ‘Spain”, a jazz instrumental that he did not write but is staple among jazz performers plus a few more. He also paid tribute to the lead singer of the Four Tops who died recently by doing the classic R & B ‘Can’t help myself’. At a certain point, he also had Ayeisha sing an unknown song from a recent album of his.
Strategically, he let loose a whole tsunami of hits for the second hour of the concert where he sang crowd favorites like “Overjoyed’, ‘Sir Duke/ I wish, What the fuzz? medley” (this got the audience bouncing all over the place like popcorn in a microwave). He also did “Lately’, a personal favorite and a high point. “Living for the City’ was absolutely wonderful. There was ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered”, ‘I just called to say I love you’, ‘Isn’t she lovely’, ‘You are the sunshine of my life’. Am sure I am missing a few more. He then called a man he met a few years back in Aus, a native Aussie who played the digeridoo before Stevie broke into the funky roaring intro of “Superstition”. He ended with a few strains of “As’.
Stevie had great rapport with his audience. He was totally unguarded, spontaneous and completely disarming. How could he not be? He had a crowd that simply adored his music. Again, putting myself in his shoes, I could see a man who was totally oblivious to everything a ‘norma’ performer pats attention to–his looks, his unconventional body movements. Nothing else mattered except the connection he had with his happy audience which he loved to interact with and talk to, and the power of his music. His blindness which he has turned to an advantage has made him more focused on the music, which is really all that matters.
He put in a good word for Barack Obama twice, much to the delight of the crowd, and added that though he had never met him or McCain, he has connected with Barack’s spirit. He also said something to that effect to his audience about having such a great time meeting so many friends and yet never having seen them.
“Part Time Lover’ was a highlight and done with a lot of audience and band participation. It was light yet so much fun. People just got up and danced the moment the song started.
I saw him 20 years earlier in an open air concert in Manila. We were all younger then, but Stevie seemed to have hardly aged. He did a longer concert then at the Ultra field, and he sang more songs like “Do I Do’, “If you really love me’, “I was made to love her’, and a few more. Here in Aus, I knew he had to really end by 11PM. He kept on saying he had a few minutes left. In many countries, the unions lord it over the venue and going overtime means the producer paying a few extra thousands of dollars.
It was a great night. I’m still high. I was so glad to have gone since there is a short list of people I am willing to pay to watch, and yes, Stevie is one of them. He promised to be back soon to do a charity show for the handicapped. I will be watching again, if I am lucky to be in Aus at that time.
What a concert!