What do you expect when you're walking into a Little Stevie Wonder concert? He hasn't played here in over twelve years, which is longer than I've been in the Bay Area. Was he going to play the new songs off the record for which this tour is supporting? Was he going to play a seven hour concert of "just the hits?" Was he going to do Songs in the Key of Life in its entirety?
Whatever he would choose to play, there was one thing for certain. The source material is so good that all Stevie Wonder had to do was show up and the concert would be glorious.
The stage was set up with Stevie front and center. He had his electric piano and Clavicle set up facing the audience, and a baby grand piano off to his left. To the side nearest the piano were the three backup singers, one of whom was his daughter who inspired "Isn't She Lovely." Another of the backup singers did interpretive dancing for us during a few numbers. Opposite them on the other side of Stevie was an unoccupied drum set. The first row of musicians behind Stevie (from our left to right) was a second keyboard player, a guitarist, the bass player (a Detroit guy who was the musical director), a second guitarist, and a third keyboard player. The third row was the drummer flanked on both sides by percussionists.
The show opened with Stevie being escorted onto the stage by his daughter. He started with a 4 or 5 minute speech about God, his recently passed mother, his love for his audience, and his daughter. He then sat at the baby grand and started a slow number that was relevant to the speech he just delivered. The band came out one-by-one during the song and picked it up with Stevie. His second song was another slow piano number.
He then moved over to the electric piano and kicked it into high gear and got the crowd dancing. He improved out of that number and into a montage of Motown and other cover songs covering everything from P-Funk to Michael Jackson. I think this part was mostly improved. He even through in a couple verses of Charlie Pride’s "The Most Beautiful Girl." "Hey, did you happen to see the most beautiful girl who walked out on me?" And out of that came "Higher Ground." WOW!!! That got the audience dancing, and he kept us there for a few more songs.
Then he slowed it down again for another three or four songs while we all chilled, realized how lucky we were to be there, and watched the almost-full moon coming up to the side of Mount Diablo. After this second round of slow songs, he threw it into overdrive and never slowed down again for the rest of the show.
I didn't keep a setlist, but there were tons of material from "Songs in the Key of Life." He threw in a sprinkling of new songs, too, but they're so "Stevie Wonder" that you're gonna be confused that you've never heard them before.
I felt like the majority of the show was off the cuff. The band did a LOT of responding to Stevie. There were a couple songs that he got about half way through but didn't finish, one of which I think was a request from the audience. He made up a few songs on the spot. He did a lot of talking between songs, sometimes too much talking, frankly, but entertaining for the majority of his audience. (I didn't know it, but he's quite the entertainer). Right when he had us absolutely sold on his greatness, he abandoned the pianos and moved over to the empty drum kit and gave an impressive drum solo, followed by a duet with the main drummer.
Later in the show, he surprised everyone on stage by jumping up on his piano bench to sing a number. His daughter was clearly distressed by this unplanned event as she motioned for a stage hand to go stand beside him.
Speaking of his daughter, she sat beside him when he played "Isn’t She Lovely," and I have to tell you, she is.
I can’t let this review pass without giving major props to the venue, the Pavilion in Concord. Security never touched my body. No one patrolled the isles, which made for easy walkabouts during the show. Though the beers were eleven dollars, the vibe was perfectly chill. The mix was perfect. The audience was multiethnic and multigenerational. (A girl beside us was wearing an Antrax hoodie!) I was happy that it was a stand up and dance show, save for those half dozen or so slow numbers. The set list was really great because Michelle yelled, "Oh, I LOVE this song!!!" with just about every song he started. "He played all my favorites!" ...but then he'd start another one and it would all happen again, ultimately until he filled a solid three hours.
There was no encore, save for the bright moon and stars shining down on a perfect summer evening.
Did he play "Superstition"?
Yes, he did play Superstition.
Nice review Doogles.
>>beers were eleven dollars
Yikes. . .
Great review Doogels. It was a magical night. Stevie Wonder had the whole crowd doing parts. Stevie led the audience by having the men sing a line while the women had their own line to sing.
Karen and I had a good time and were not harassed for puffing. Definitely a mellow crowd which a big and nice change from the night before of Beastie Boys as the Greek.
Getting into the venue was tuff for many folks and I saw some that bought the premeire parking only to park on a real steep incline that had some nice cars bottoming out where they were parked. The weather couldn't have been any better with the moon shining brightly over Mt. Diablo.
Great review, Senor Doogles. With all positive intentions, I'm jealous!
The Gate's review is here:
You need to review more shows.
Stevie is a musical genius! Glad you went and had such a positive experience Doogs.
>>He had his electric piano and Clavicle set up facing the audience
Isn't a clavicle your collar bone?
great review, doogles. i feel like i was there
>>Isn't a clavicle your collar bone?<<
Yes it is. I think Doogs was referring to a clavinet, but I could be wrong.
A picture of the clavinet Stevie used during the recording of Superstition.