Saturday July 6, 2019
Part 2 (Stevie Wonder). See Part 1 (Lionel Richie).
After Lionel Richie leaves the stage, I move further forward and to the side to find a better spot to get the best possible view of the main draw of the day, Stevie Wonder.
Now all there is to do is wait. And wait we do. First the approximately 45 minutes between Richie’s and Wonder’s sets. Then an additional 30 minutes or so before Stevie Wonder actually enters the stage to the sound of September by Earth, Wind and Fire, slowly, led by two ladies who guide him to his piano.
First song is As If You Read My Mind which is the first indication that there might be an issue with the sound, which there wasn’t during Lionel Richie’s show. Then follows greatness in the shape of Master Blaster, Higher Ground and Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing. The foundation is definitely there for a great concert, but good sound is as important as good songs, and unfortunately the former is lacking, and it’s at times hard to hear Wonder’s singing properly.
He performs a couple of duets with Daley and Corinne Bailey Rae, both OK, but nothing more than that. I think Wonder shines the best when he sings as a solo singer. For Once In My Life is a classic of course, and when Signed, Sealed Delivered I’m Yours is played, everyone is singing, dancing and clapping their hands, as far as I can see.
Then there’s a strange interlude where a section of songs by deceased fellow musical icons is played, not by Wonder and his band, but by a DJ, like someone just putting on a playlist of Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson, Prince, David Bowie, Amy Winehouse and Aretha Franklin. As nice as it is of Wonder to pay tribute to these artists, it would have worked a lot better if the songs had been played as a medley live by the band, rather as just a playlist. It seems odd and feels like a bit of a cheat. The answer to this section might be explained by the fact that is revealed towards the end of the concert and is reported in the news the next day, that Wonder is actually ill and is expecting a kidney transplant later in the year. Maybe he’s simply giving himself a break on stage because he’s not well? And maybe the microphone is turned down low because he doesn’t feel he can sing as strong as usual? And maybe he didn’t want to cancel to not let down the fans? Maybe. That would all make sense. But it still leaves you feeling a bit flat, after having spent a lot of money on expensive tickets, that a whole section of the concert is merely a playlist of other artists, and the concert itself is played with bad microphone volume.
Having said that, there’s no denying the strength of the songs and the overwhelming musical talent that Wonder possesses. No one can take that away from him, even with bad sound.
I stay for Sir Duke and Living For the City. Two songs that are among the best pop songs ever written, and it’s great to hear them live and see how the audience, those who are close enough to the stage to hear, react with pure joy when hearing those tunes.
I admit I leave just after Living for the City as it starts to rain, and the combination of being tired and slightly frustrated by the low volume of Stevie Wonder’s microphone, I call it a day – happy to have seen Stevie Wonder live, but also realising this might not have been the best circumstances for seeing (and barely hearing) him.
Stevie Wonder setlist
(Intro music: September – Earth, Wind and Fire)
1. As If You Read My Mind
2. Master Blaster (Jammin’) / Jammin’ (Bob Marley cover)
3. Higher Ground
4. Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing
5. Rocket Love
6. You and I (We Can Conquer the World) (with Daley)
7. For Once In My Life (Jean DuShon cover)
8. That Girl (interrupted)
9. Creepin’ (with Corinne Bailey Rae)
10. Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours
What’s Going On (Marvin Gaye)
Billie Jean (Michael Jackson)
When Doves Cry (Prince)
Let’s Dance (David Bowie)
Rehab (Amy Winehouse)
Respect (Aretha Franklin)
11. Sir Duke
12. I Wish
13. Living For the City
14. My Cherie Amour
15. You Are the Sunshine of My Life
16. Imagine (John Lennon cover)
17. I Just Called to Say I Love You
18. Do I Do