“Songs in the Key of Life” A concert review by me.
I went to the Stevie Wonder concert in Philly last night. He played the entire “Songs in the Key of Life” CD….including the 4 songs that are on the CD but not on the vinyl from the 70s. Mr. Wonder was 26 when that CD was released. It was his follow-up to his award winning “Innervisions” and “Fulfillingness First Finale” LPs. Stevie, Elton, and Billy Joel ruled the 70s. Simply put, “Songs in the Key of Life” is a masterpiece. If anything, I think Steve is better now than he was when he was 26. He has a great stage presence. He has learned to ditch that distracting side-to-side head movement. His voice is stronger than ever. He had some real nice, poignant moments of conversation with the audience. He seems, happy, healthy and confident with who he is and where he is in his life. The band was fabulous. He was backed by (are you ready?):
10 violinists, 1 bass guitarist, 3 rhythm / lead guitarists, 2 drummers, each with full sets of drums and cymbals, 2 other keyboardists, 2 bongo players, each with full sets of bongos and all the other percussion instruments, bells, triangles, etc. for the little background sounds in many of these songs. There were also 6 horn players and 6 backing vocalists, except for the song “Pastime Paradise” which has a choir backing at the end. For this song, there were 12 backing vocalists. Steve also featured a female singer “India Somebody” who had a terrific voice and is necessary for the vocals on many of the songs.
Steve made his claim to fame, of course, with his keyboards and voice and exquisite lyrics. I could list many of the lyrics but there are so many. Just for example “You can bet your life times that and twice it’s double, that God knew EXACTLY where he wanted you to be placed.” We forget that he is an unbelievably great harmonica player. He proved this during an extended and HIGHLY appreciated version of “Isn’t she Lovely?” His “If it’s Magic” brought tears to the eyes of many of the attendees.
He also played an instrument…maybe it was a harpsichord….that is kind of a cross between a keyboard and a slide guitar. The audience was mesmerized, including me.
“Songs” is one of my absolute favorite CDs of all time and it’s on my MP3 player which I listen to when I do my walking so I have heard it, literally, hundreds of times. I had very, VERY, high expectations for this concert. Do you know what’s fun ? It’s fun when your VERY high expectations are HIGHLY EXCEEDED !!!!!
And….a nice touch……the running time of “Songs” is over 2 hours. It was longer with some extended songs and some extra jamming by the band. Instead of the usual “leave the stage ad make the audience scream for 5 or 10 minutes before coming back for an encore”, Steve just asked, after “Songs” if we had time for a little more. Of course, we did. So he did , like, 90 seconds of “My Cherie Amore”, “For Once in my life”, “I just Called”, several more that I can’t remember, and ended with a 5-minute version of “Superstitions.”
If you have the time and the means, Stevie will be playing in Atlanta this Saturday. Get a plane ticket, a ticket to the concert and a hotel room and make a weekend of it. It’ll be worth every penny.
Oh….an added bonus…..it appeared as if it was a sellout. I mean, every seat was filled….except the one to my right. How great is that ?? !!!