Monday, June 23, 2008

Hotter than July


Last night's Stevie Wonder concert was incredible beyond words. His voice sounds exactly like it does on records he recorded 30 years ago, which is amazing. If you've seen Aretha Franklin perform recently, you know exactly why this is remarkable.

Stevie was brought out by his daughter Aisha, who is drop dead gorgeous. She also sings backup for him, and her daddy gave her a chance to sing a song on her own with only his accompaniment. When I heard him perform live, it really hit me that Stevie is first and foremost a musician and then a singer. The arrangements were great; he didn't just rehash the stuff on his records, although all of that is just fine. The band even covered Chick Corea's Spain, which they did beautifully (one of my favorite jazz pieces, and to hear it played at a Stevie Wonder concert was more than I could have asked for). They also did 'Dont You Worry Bout a Thing' with the faster middle section that's often found in Latin jazz pieces. But I think where he really killed it was the slower songs. I've heard 'Ribbon in the Sky', 'Visions', 'Knocks Me Off My Feet' and all the big slow hits a million times each but there was something I couldn't quite put my finger on that hit me in a different way.

Once Stevie took us through the slow, sweet stuff he brought down the house with cranked up bass lines and really solid grooves. He ended with 'Superstition', which was great. A contest winner from a local radio station sang it with him, which was sweet. She looked like she was about to die with happiness. I nearly died myself. The man has a larger-than-life stage presence, and you can tell that even after all these years what he wants to do more than anything is perform.

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