Songs in the Key of Life
June 30, 2015 § Leave a comment
Heavens, I’ve been meaning to post about this one for months! Let’s begin by saying that Stevie Wonder is one of my all-time favorite recording artists, even if my goddaughter doesn’t quite dig him (yet) and many are overly focused on songs like “I Just Called to Say I Love You” and dismiss him.* But if you were a kid in the seventies and brought up on a steady diet of Mr. Wonder, there is no denying that his music is the stuff of genius. (Although I probably didn’t realize that until I was at least twenty.)
When I was working in entertainment — particularly during those years in music — I used to imagine what it would be like to meet Stevie Wonder if he say, happened to come into the office of the marketing department where I worked. Sometimes these imaginings would even come out of my mouth in meetings with my team…they all thought I was nuts.
Needless to say, Mr. Wonder never came around the offices (especially since I didn’t even work at his label), but it was only a short 14 years later that he came to the Barclays Center to perform “Songs in the Key of Life” in its entirety for the occasion of its 38th anniversary. Needless to say, there was not way I was missing this show. And I didn’t.
As we were getting seated, I heard a tween say to her dad “I can’t believe that we are in the same room as Stevie Wonder!!”. I wholeheartedly agreed. And our seats were good — I am quite certain that this is as close as I will ever get to him — but the performance was even better.
He performed the whole record through in about four hours. His voice is perfect, the (huge) band was tight and totally into it, and the audience was Not Too Bad graded on a NYC Curve. Really, there just isn’t much more to say except that I teared up a little when I heard him belt out the first few lines of “Love’s in Need of Love Today”, and almost lost my mind when he performed an encore mashup of everything else you would even want to hear, including “Living For the City” as one seamless piece that didn’t cheapen anything in it.
OK, there is one more thing to say: I was really struck by how gracious and warm Mr. Wonder was throughout the concert. He always talks a great deal about love and peace and his faith in God, and I don’t know…it just really felt authentic and not just “of a time” when he was on stage. He also seems to genuinely have a great time playing music with a band that he loves. (And can he play! Google how many instruments he plays…it will blow your mind.)
And the final, perfect touch: He bowed with the band. Who does that anymore? Stevie Wonder, that’s who.
(Photos: Mr. H, since no one said we couldn’t and Motown, I assume, owns the art of the album cover but I couldn’t find the actual designer of the iconic cover.)
* Which in my opinion, as well as that of my General Counsel who is also a musician, as a song is actually pretty good. It was just the eighties production that made it, well, less good.