I have been a fan of Stevie wonder all my life. Something about his singing style connects to me very deeply.
I’m so grateful Iris and I had the chance to see him perform his Songs In The Key Of Life Performance. The music comes from his 1976 album regarded as some of our popular music’s greatest work. We talk about effortless performance – Stevie is the poster child of effortless. He barely cracks a sweat when he sings… and does he sing.
Although we were sitting in the nose bleed bleacher section I felt well connected to Stevie and to the other 18,000 fans at the Prudential Center in NJ. He was able to deliver an intimate performance. That’s the sign of a great artist. He was escorted to the stage by R&B singer India. Arie who delivered a soulful performance in her own right.
Stevie came out swinging with his opening song “Love’s In Need of Love Today.”
For me, it seemed the first part of the performance was a warm up the audience for the second part, which was much more intimate.Doing a call and response with his signature riffs and having his vocalists copy his style. It was thrilling to see how Stevie was able to create an intimate space in such a large venue. The sign of a truly great artist. See video above.
His keyboard playing supports his vocal eloquently and oh his harmonica – he has got to be one of the greatest harmonica players, again an effortless performance. He also had played a new instrument I never saw called the Marcodi harpejji, an electric stringed instrument which is tapped with all 10 fingers like a guitar/piano hybrid
Stevie has a wonderful sense of humor and very playful- at one point he said the band was taking advantage of a bald blind guy.
He just seemed to be having so much fun.
The stellar core band included two drummers, two percussionists, two guitarists, two keyboardists, six horns, four primary backing vocalists, an eight-piece chorus, and a string section of a dozen or so locals, plus special guest harmonica player Frederic Yonnet. At least two band members, keyboardist/musical director Greg Phillinganes and bassist Nathan Watts, contributed to the original recording of “Songs in the Key of Life.1
In this day and age of abundance gimmickry which built into the performance, it is refreshing to hear natural music talent without all the fireworks going off. If it’s possible for a living musician to reach “prophet” status, Stevie Wonder has joined the club.