Words by: John Reed
Stevie Wonder :: 09.20.07 :: Bank of America Pavilion :: Boston, MA
When one ponders true musical genius, the mind inevitably drifts towards Stevie Wonder. Since his days as Berry Gordy's successful wunderkind in the '60s through his countless masterful funk-soul creations over the next few decades, Wonder is one of the few artists who truly deserves all of the accolades that have been bestowed upon him.
| Stevie Wonder|
Wonder has been more low key in the past few years, especially when compared to his machine gun productivity in the '70s where he put out hits and critically lauded albums with astonishing regularity. Wonder is touring again for the first time in over a decade and closed out the final night of his brief late summer tour (touted as "A Wonder Summer's Night") at Boston's Bank Of America Pavilion.
Sans an opening act, Wonder put on a nearly three-hour performance, which stuck to a mostly greatest hits format that more than pleased his faithful (and patient) disciples. A Stevie Wonder performance is similar to a Rolling Stones concert. Not that their musical styles are similar – though Wonder was the opening act on the Stones' 1972 tour – but Wonder and the Stones have such a plethora of jukebox hits that their live shows create the feeling that their catalogues are endless.
After briefly speaking about the passing of his beloved mother – the reason he's touring again - Wonder kept it mellow for a while before kicking it up with "Living For The City" and a quintessential version of "Higher Ground." Wisely, he dug way back into his classic albums like Innervisions, which made up a big chunk of the set. An early show highlight was a Wonder-led audience sing-a-long of Parliament's "Give Up the Funk" as a tribute to George Clinton.
Wonder's 1976 masterpiece Songs In The Key of Life, was also well represented with his two homages, one to his youth ("I Wish") and one to Duke Ellington ("Sir Duke"), which was sinfully cut a bit short. His backing band now includes his daughter, vocalist Aisha, the inspiration for "Isn't She Lovely."
| Stevie Wonder|
Wonder has the uncommon ability to touch on several genres (pop, funk, jazz, soul, r&b) and make them gel together smoothly, as well as construct ballads and love songs that are totally absent of maudlin qualities a la "My Cherie Amour." This is a song that would not work with most vocalists but Wonder sailed thought the tune with an effortlessness that only Marvin Gaye could have equaled.
A grandiose take on "You Are The Sunshine Of My Life" kept with the abundance of slower jams, but Wonder later picked it up again with "Boogie On Reggae Woman" and "Master Blaster (Jammin')." Just hearing the stellar, funky opening licks of "Superstition" was worth the price of the ticket alone.
As this was the final show of his short tour, Wonder did say at the close of the show that he may consider extending the run. Tickets were in high demand, and the number of desperate devotees wandering outside the Pavilion was akin to "I need a miracle" Deadheads, people walking up and down the streets with one finger raised and signs literally begging for an extra ticket.
An amazing night from a man who needs to share his live voice more often.
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