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Soundposts

A blog for Seattle music lovers of all stripes, from hip-hop and indie rock to jazz and world music.

December 4, 2014 at 12:33 PM

Stevie Wonder brings it all back home | Concert review

Stevie Wonder at KeyArena, Wednesday, Dec. 3. (David Conger)

Stevie Wonder at KeyArena, Wednesday, Dec. 3. (David Conger)

America may have created Ferguson, but it also created Stevie Wonder.

In a cathartic, nearly four-hour marathon with one short intermission, Wonder offered the packed house at KeyArena a sanctified celebration Wednesday, while also spreading balm on the nation’s racial wounds, opened by this month’s grand jury decisions in Missouri and New York.

As planned, Wonder reprised every song of his classic 1976 double album, “Songs in the Key of Life,” but also took several detours that spoke to the present.

“I love sincerely each and every one of you,” he said. “But there is something wrong and we need to fix it. That’s why this song is still relevant today.”

As the crowd applauded, the enchanting, visionary 64-year-old singer-songwriter launched into his 1974 anthem about black poverty, “Living for the City.”

This was just one highlight of a show rich in detail, passion and mastery. And while it went on far too long — Wonder’s hammy impersonation of a tough DJ in the last half-hour deflated the momentum — it was a stunning evening.

Wonder’s enormous entourage included vocalist India.Arie, 10 string players, six backup singers (including Wonder’s daughter, Aisha), six horn players and a vast array of rhythm players on guitar, keyboards and percussion.

Wearing a green suit with a collarless, sequined jacket, his hair pulled back from his mostly bald pate into long braids, Wonder kicked off with the still timely “Love’s in Need of Love Today.” The crowd — mostly middle-aged, but also including many 30-somethings — sang along, seeming to know every word of every tune.

As Wonder sailed through the ironically inviting “Village Ghetto Land,” buoyant “Sir Duke,” crooning “Knocks Me Off My Feet,” love-struck “Ordinary Pain,” sci-fi fantasy “Saturn” and jaunty “Ebony Eyes,” his elegant poise amid these emotions and story lines was striking.

Other highlights included the irresistibly lilting paean to his firstborn, “Isn’t She Lovely,” the ferociously funky “All Day Sucker,” a dazzling solo on the unusual, auto-harplike harpejii on “Ngiculela — Es Una Historia/I Am Singing” and the grooving “The Way You Make Me Feel,” which got everyone up on their feet.

Wonder paid homage to Seattle music history with Ray Charles’ “I Got A Woman” and Little Willie John’s “Fever” and to the late harpist Dorothy Ashby, who played on “If It’s Magic.”

No Stevie Wonder show would be complete without “My Cherie Amour” and “I Just Called to Say I Love You,” both of which Wonder offered in a medley of greatest hits, ending the concert with a rousing “Superstition.”

Comments | More in R & B/Hip-hop, Rock/Pop | Topics: "Songs in the Key of Life", Concert Review, KeyArena

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