As 8:30 neared Conan O’Brien returned to the What Stage to introduce one of the greatest performers in the history of music, the legend, Mr. Steveland Hardaway Judkins, better known as Stevie Wonder.
Conan ran awkwardly off stage to “go and get him [Wonder],” and didn’t come back. The audience feared the worst. Had Stevie Wonder bought the farm (pun intended)?
NAY! Wonder strolled on stage, opening his show with a nasty, face melting Roland AX-synth shoulder synthesizer solo (glorified key-tar) that sounded metal as shit. I threw up my horns thinking Slash was taking the stage.
Wonder carried the synth solo into “Did I Hear You Say You Love Me,” his funky 1980 hit. Next up was Wonder’s “Master Blaster” followed by his Motown hit “Uptight (Everyhing’s Alright)” which made the 60,000 people in attendance get up and groove.
After that, things got strange. Wonder was Peyton Manning checking down his setlist at the line of scrimmage, confusing his band and the audience who received a long look at the original playlist that was posted on the jumbotron a few minutes earlier.
Not that we were going to argue when he began playing hit after hit. “For Once In My Life,” “Higher Ground,” and “Don’t You Worry Bout A Thing,” all in a row, it was like a best of compilation.
Wonder followed with a cover of Parliament’s “Give Up The Funk,” and transitioned into “Heard It Through The Grapevine,” my favorite highlight of the performance.
Then it was sing along time. Wonder led us through a call and answer session where he taught us how to sing because Wonder didn’t “want us screwing up his words.” The men had their part, the women another, put it together and we were singing the instrumental part of “Living For the City.”
“Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours,” “Sir Duke,” and “Give Peace A Chance” surrounded our sing along.
Wonder closed with “My Cherie Amour,” “Do I Do,” and funkified, rocked out rendition of “Superstition.” It was a performance of epic proportions.