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a night of wonder

September 15, 2008

so, i’ve got to admit that when it was first announced that stevie would be doing a run of dates at the o2 i was a bit sceptical that it would be any good. there is nothing more depressing that going to see one of your heroes and finding them fat & bloated / unable to sing anymore / remember the words / backed by a dry band of session musicians reading the music off a page / doing songs off their latest project that no one wants to hear etc. At a minimum of £60 a ticket, and at a soulless venue like the 02 that could be an expensive mistake! anyway, something wasn’t sitting right with me about not going so when a friend called me asking if i wanted her spare ticket i leapt at the chance, if only so that I could tell my unborn child in years to come that they had been to see stevie wonder in the womb! i will also tell him / her that our £60 seats turned out to be in the VERY back row, thats quite a hike up a lot of stairs for an 8 month pregnant lady! could have killed the vibe what with the vertigo, but in fact we were directly opposite the stage / above the soundman and both the sound and view of the stage were excellent.

anyway, i think my cynicism melted away in the first 5 minutes. yes, stevie can get sappy at moments but when someone is coming from a place of that much goodness, it is just not cheesy. he looks like he lives well and enjoys life, and his voice, stage presence and musicianship were 100% on point. also, he rolled out the classics but with a fire and passion that was just unbelievable for someone who is not only 68 years old but has probably performed these tracks hundreds of times. there were too many highlights to mention but hearing “knocks me off my feet” bought tears to my eyes, a twisted vocoder’ed version of people make the world go round was also brilliant. It went on…Visions, Golden Lady, Higher Ground, Sir Duke, Don’t You Worry Bout a Thing – this was not short on the golden mid 70s era, and he just rolled them out often not even breathing for a beat between tracks. Towards the end of the show he did endulge in some of the schmaltzier selection(Lately, My Cherie Amore) but all the OAPs up in the siberian section of the venue with me were loving every moment I just Called to Say I love You, and by then I was so loved up and awestruck that it would have seemed deeply churlish to resent it. The band were really excellent as well, and certainly kept up the energy.

my friend was saying before the show that he would probably bang on a lot about obama but he kept his support quite subliminal with a “vote obama” badge and the odd lyrical reference dropped into his songs (so subminal in face that my friend hadn’t even noticed!!!). a big singalong to Superstition and (tragically) only one verse of As and he was off, no encore. I looked at my watch and 2 and a half hours had passed! I’m usually quite ADD at concerts but this just flew by.

5 days later and I still haven’t quite come down. this was a once in a lifetime chance to see a true living leg-end, and if you are in london (or anywhere else the tour will reach) you should beg borrow or steal to get yourself there and just BE in the presence of true genius. there are many great musical talents out there but not all of them seem to truly make the world a better place.


some fathead in the evening standard (facists!) gave the show a really bad review! main gripe seems to be the lack of classics. i wondered if we were at the same gig.