You see those five stars at the end of this review? Stevie Wonder earned three of them simply by showing up to Life Is Beautiful on the the night of September 25 in fine voice—and not just “in fine voice at age 65,” but with close to the exact same vocal range he’s possessed since the mid-1980s. He earned another star for his virtuoso playing, which was faithfully covered by the camera crew. (I’ve never seen a concert camera crew pay such close attention to a musician’s fingers.)
The other 800 stars (that’s what we agreed on, right, Zoneil?) were for the songs—the opening salvo of “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You),” “Master Blaster (Jammin’)” and “Higher Ground”; the loose and fun renditions of “Do I Do” and “My Cherie Amour”; and the set-closing whomp of “Living For the City.” The unvarnished greatness of these classics, and the skill and passion with which Wonder and his band delivered them, carried the set through its weak spots—most notably a 20-minute stretch following a wicked version of “Superstition,” during which the players noodled and took solos, and the pace of the show turned what I’ll generously call “leisurely.” Still, that 20 minutes only revealed how generous a bandleader Stevie Wonder can be, which adds another thousand stars to his score.
Photos by Erik Kabik / ErikKabik.com