Stevie Wonder delights Boston faithful

A review of Stevie Wonder at the Comcast Center on June 22, 2008

, Managing Editor

After touring for the first time in a decade last fall, Stevie Wonder has returned to the road again this summer, stopping in the Boston area this past Sunday night. After playing a crowded Pavilion show last fall, Wonder upgraded to the Comcast Center for his “A Wonder Summer’s Night” show, unfortunately the amphitheater was only filled with a Pavillion-sized crowd. However, the poor showing didn’t stop Stevie and his band from delivering a fantastic set.

Before starting in on the tunes, Wonder took the stage wearing a sparkling black shirt bearing the word “Jazz”, accompanied by his daughter Aisha Morris, who performed as a backup singer. Wonder, who was playful throughout the night, addressed the crowd, creating excitement after mentioning the Celtic’s championship and even engaging the audience in a “Na Na Hey Hey Goodbye” chant. He followed this by talking about how the show would be “all about the spirit” and said, “Doc and the Celtics had the spirit” before advocating the spirit of Barack Obama, of whom he is a great supporter.

It didn’t take long for the multi-instrumentalist to show off his famous harmonica skills, which he featured in the show opener, “As If You Read My Mind”, the first of four straight tracks he played from his Hotter Than July album. The hit “Master Blaster” followed, leading into “Did I Hear You Say You Love Me?” during which Stevie got up from his keyboard and did a brief dance while lightheartedly panting.&

After slowing the set down a bit with “All I Do” and “Knocks Me Off My Feet”, with the crowd singing the “I Love You’s,” Wonder got the entire place groovin’, including one very enthusiastic male backup singer, to “Higher Ground”.&

Taking to the piano, Stevie and his band then launched into a jazzy instrumental that incorporated band member introductions. Each member of Wonder’s extensive band got their time to shine with highlights such as two guitar solos, trumpet and saxophone solos, and a piano solo by Wonder himself. The impressive display of musicianship by Wonder and his band brought many awe-struck audience members to their feet.

After the long instrumental the band got back to the tunes with “Don’t You Worry About A Thing”. Next, Stevie told his lead guitarist to express himself “like a rock star” during “Visions”, which he certainly did with a showy rock n’ roll-type solo.& “Livin’ For The City” got people back up on their feet, with funky moves provided by the backup singers once again.&

During the middle of Wonder’s set he tested out a newer song called “Keep Fooling Yourself Baby Girl” which the crowd really seemed to respond to, before he serenaded own baby girl, Aisha Morris, with help from the audience during “Isn’t She Lovely”.&

Wonder then humored the crowd as he pondered, “How many Stevie Wonder songs have played while people made love?” before performing “Ribbon in the Sky”, which would certainly serve that purpose. After playing with the crowd again saying he had to go so he could catch a “Celtics party” and speaking in a Boston accent, the icon strung some hits together for the last leg of his show. The audience sang along to “My Cherie Amour” before the paying customers at the Comcast Center started to shake it to “Signed, Sealed, Delivered”, “Sir Duke”, and “I Wish” which featured several stop and goes to close out the song.

“Do I Do” was stopped after just a few lines as Wonder wished for more energy from the crowd. Stevie stepped it up himself, climbing on top of his piano bench to sing and then later dancing with a lucky fan from the crowd. The continuous dance party that was the end of Wonder’s set was oddly interrupted by DJ Romeo of KISS108 who introduced Diana Williams, the winner of a KISS contest in which she won the chance to sing with the music legend (When was the last time KISS108 even played a Stevie Wonder song?). The whole ordeal completely threw off the momentum that Wonder and his band had created from playing hit after hit, which causes one to question the placement of this event during the show. Williams reprised “Livin’ For The City” before dueting with Wonder on “Superstitious” to close out the show.&

The ending wasn’t as picture perfect as it could have been due to the contest stoppage but it wasn’t nearly enough to ruin the fun that Stevie Wonder and his band provided. It was unfortunate more fans couldn’t make it out to the show because they missed a truly great performance from one of music’s biggest icons. After taking ten years off from touring it seems as if Wonder hasn’t missed a beat. Hopefully for those who missed out it won’t take Stevie ten years to come back.
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