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

Stevie Wonder

Alison Green

When: Fri., Oct. 16, 8 p.m. 2015
Price: $39.50-$149.50
Stevie Wonder’s string of 70s albums remains one of the high-water marks in American pop, and for more than a year he’s been touring with a lavish production of the 1976 masterpiece Songs in the Key of Life. (That’s the one with “Isn’t She Lovely,” “Sir Duke,” “As,” and “Another Star.”) A total of 130 people contributed to this wide-ranging 21-song double LP during the two years Wonder spent making it, and at last fall’s United Center show, up to 32 musicians took the stage at once—including a ten-piece string section, six horns, two drummers, two percussionists, and a cohort of backup singers that topped out at 14. Excepting the harp on “If It’s Magic,” every note of Wonder’s detailed, sprightly arrangements was played by a live human. Even with the music at full boil I could hear a percussionist tapping a cymbal the size of an egg cup, and on “Sir Duke” somebody snuck in the playful fillip of siren whistle in the tiny pause after the line about Ella Fitzgerald. Songs in the Key of Life was Wonder’s 18th studio album, but the first came out when he was 12—he was 26 for this one, and today he’s just 65. (Last year one of his backup singers was his oldest daughter, Aisha Morris, who’s 40 now—she’s the baby crying at the start of “Isn’t She Lovely.”) His voice, though somewhat weathered, remains supple and strong, with all its old acrobatic grace and infectious enthusiasm. The record’s bubbly blend of soul, funk, rock, and pop has aged beautifully, as have its messages of faith, love, joy, nostalgia, and justice for the oppressed. And at the show I saw, once Wonder finished Songs in the Key of Life, he closed with a medley of favorites (“Do I Do,” “For Once in My Life,” “My Cherie Amour”) and a scorching ten-minute jam on “Superstition.” Tickets aren’t cheap, but call in favors if you have to—this will be one of the best concerts you ever see.
— Philip Montoro
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