A few weeks ago Stevie Wonder performed at Madison Square Garden in New York City, and The Assimilated Negro was lucky enough to have a ticket ...
For Once In My Life: Before heading to Stevie Wonder's concert I asked on my blog what the appropriate outfit might be. Concerts are always a little weird for choosing an outfit because you're going to a special event, so you want to dress up, but it's music, and you're going to "jam" and "groove" and "be chill" so you don't want to overdress.
With a Stevie Wonder concert you also have to negotiate the appropriate reverence (no shredded or torn clothes; this means you, white people & hipster-punk negroes), as well as the full age spectrum of Stevie's audience, which is basically from newborn - to old guys being wheeled in as their last dying request. So while I only have two outfits regardless, I thought the matter demanded some extra consideration.
As I say in that post, I ascribe Stevie Wonder no lesser value than proof of god's existence, but despite his godliness, I wasn't sure what a concert of his would be like. Michael Jordan also lived much of his life as God's vessel, but he wasn't the same as he got older. And when spoken of as an artist certainly Stevie, like Jordan, is a performer nonpareil, but we also have to acknowledge that Stevie's contemporary material doesn't strike the same universal chord as his 70s early 80s stuff. He's essentially a genre/brand of music unto himself, but you might cringe a little if you heard he was only playing his "contemporary" material.
(we interrupt this concert review to bring you a TAN Concert Tip/Anecdote for People Saving Their Money: my aunt brought an eggplant sandwich right before the show, we were both unsure how strict the MSG no-food policy would be. Turns out, very strict. security guys examined her bag and demanded that she lose the sandwich (and brownie, and vitaminwater, and other snack). We were 5-10 minutes before showtime and my aunt was determined to be getting in our seats in a timely fashion, yet she didn't want to lose what amounted to $10+ dollars of food, snack and beverages. So she stuck the sandwich down the back of her pants, and brought it in like that until we got to our seats. And we got in no prob. holla! I'm very proud of her perseverance in the face of adversity.)
We get to our seats, which are back row a level above floor seating, in perfect time for what's listed as 8PM show time. But wouldn't you know it, even Stevie runs on CP Time. Tick tock, tick tock. Here comes 8:30, still no blind geniuses taking the stage.
My aunt and I were sitting next to an older black couple, I think it'd be fair to describe them as the ideal Stevie demo. I won't digress on that. To pass the time I figure I'd engage in some fun Q&A on Stevie Wonder trivia. First question: how old is Stevie? I ask my aunt and she suggests 50s, and even hints 40s possibly. I say no way, and suggest 60s might be more accurate.
I eventually ask Stevie's Target Demo, and the wife who is obviously the spokesperson for the couple says that he's definitely in his 60s because "he was 58 when his last child was born." Turns out Stevie Wonder is 57. So, there goes the Target Demo.
Just as we start approaching 8:40 I go to get some popcorn so I can pass the down time picking kernels out of my gums, and just as I get on line I hear the roar of the crowd. I rush off line -- it was short -- to see Stevie being escorted out by his daughter Aisha. I go back and get my popcorn -- the initial applause for his coming on stage lasted the length of the whole concession run – as i get back to my seat Stevie is just starting to address the crowd. As our second and final bit of Stevie trivia my aunt tells me she thinks Aisha is the baby who cries and gurgles on "Isn't She Lovely." Awwww. I offered a firm eyebrow-raise to express my appreciation of the trivia and settled in with my popcorn eager for a good show.
Visions: Before anything gets underway, Stevie walks to the front of the stage and talks to the crowd. He thanks everyone for showing and tells the heartwarming story of how the show was inspired by the passing of his mother in May of '06. After she passed Stevie basically shut everything down for a while, but then she came to him in a vision one night and and told him to stop mourning and get out there and do his thing. And when he called his producers and agent, they thought it'd be a year to organize and plan, but he made it happen in a couple weeks, and has been touring and reinvigorated since.
(Ironically i just wrote a guide to coping with the loss of your fav artists's mama. I think Stevie is my favorite artist, and i herby nominate his mama's passing as a holiday. OR we can just make his birthday a holiday. Seriously. If a thug like Christopher Columbus is honored, Stevie Wonder is waaaaaaaay ahead of that fool. )
Once Stevie gives his intro the show opens with he and his daughter doing a duet of "Love's In Need of Love Today." It's sweet, and she's a good enough singer, but after a couple verses you can't help but think .... okokokokokok, thanks "Isn't She Lovely" baby, but time for Stevie.
After the duet he segues into “To High” and then “Visions” as the first extended showpiece. At the end of "Visions" Steve picks up the tempo and gets militant and angry, riffing off the song and singing how he envisions a better world and doesn't understand how in 2007 we're not there yet. "He can't understand it." And "it's unacceptable." Making war for peace (Iraq). "I can't understand it!" Jena 6. "2007, it's unacceptable!" No healthcare. "I can't understand it, it's unacceptable!" It's kind of corny writing about because it's the same entreaties we hear every day, but when Stevie gets all adamant with his preach-singing, you kind of feel it. I was ready to sign some petitions and beat up some capitalist pigs. In 2007 the drama is unacceptable!
Part 2 continues here ....