Stevie Wonder | United Center | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader
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Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder

When: Fri., Nov. 14, 8 p.m. 2014
Price: $39.50-$149.50
Last year Stevie Wonder took the stage in Los Angeles to re-create his landmark 1976 album, Songs in the Key of Life—a performance that lasted three hours (with an intermission), nearly twice the running time of the double LP and its bonus EP combined. The star-studded dozens-strong supporting cast included keyboardists Greg Phillinganes and Herbie Hancock reprising their roles from the recording, as well as newcomers such as jazz bassist Esperanza Spalding, supple R&B singer Joe, and a trio of tambourine-wielding children. Wonder has since decided to take that show on the road, a choice that will (one hopes) bring new listeners to the album while pleasing those who fell in love with it all those years ago. A sprawling opus that throws soul, funk, rock, and pop into a cauldron and sets it to simmer, Songs in the Key of Life was hugely successful upon its release and remains a staggering contribution to the American canon; the social problems it addresses remain urgent (homelessness on “Village Ghetto Land,” nihilistic hedonism on “Pastime Paradise”), and the music still kicks. Wonder has described Songs as a highly optimistic album, despite the way it confronts the world’s ills. And any track you choose, whether it’s the effervescent Duke Ellington tribute “Sir Duke” or the pulsing “Another Star,” demonstrates the soundness of that judgment—the musical ambition alone is proof positive of his belief in a world where good will eventually win out. —Maura Johnston
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