Seeing Stevie Wonder in concert was something I’d been waiting to do forever. I’d even had dreams where I was at a Stevie Wonder show, only to wake up and be disappointed to realize it wasn’t real. Tickets for this concert, at the 1,400-seat Humphrey’s by the Bay, sold out in less than five minutes, according to the newspaper. I was really lucky to get mine.
As the name suggests, Humphrey’s is right on the water. It’s such a small and intimate venue, the smallest venue on the tour. There truly isn’t a bad seat in the house. Here’s a picture (not of Stevie Wonder) from the Humphrey’s Web site. What you see is the entire seating area. Maybe one or two rows are cut off from the back, but that’s it.
The concert was the first show on Wonder’s first U.S. tour in 12 years. There were hundreds of people in boats, rafts, kayaks and other sea vessels taking in the show as well, the largest-ever number of people doing that, according to the paper.
The show began with Stevie being led out to his two-keyboard setup at the center of the stage by his daughter, Aisha Morris. The crowd was already boisterous, as might be expected, but quickly had to hush because Wonder started talking very quietly about how his mother’s death the previous year inspired him to go back on the road to celebrate her love with his fans, who he said he considers family.
Then he started into “Love’s in Need of Love Today,” the opening track on my favorite Wonder album, Songs in the Key of Life.
When you go see someone with the kind of catalogue Stevie Wonder has, hanging your hopes on him playing any particular song is risky, so I tried not to do that beforehand. But if I’d been asked to name a non-hit I was hoping for, “Love’s in Need of Love Today” would’ve been right up there. It was a great way to start the show, and touching for me personally because my mother (who’s alive and well) and I used to sing along to that song when I was little.
After playing the intro to the song alone, Wonder was joined by his band — a drummer, two percussionists, two keyboard players, two guitar players, a bass player and three backing vocalists. No horn players, so the horns in songs like “Sir Duke” were played on synths, but the relatively smaller band made for a tighter unit.
They played for more than two hours, mixing the big hits with some choice album tracks, as well as a cover of Chick Corea’s “Spain.” Other songs included “You Are The Sunshine of My Life,” “Superstition,” “I Wish,” “Visions,” “Another Star,” “Living For the City,” “Higher Ground,” “Isn’t She Lovely,” “Part Time Lover,” “Don’t You Worry About A Thing,” “Masterblaster (Jammin’)”, “My Cherie Amour” and more.
The mix was bass-heavy at times, but overall Wonder and the band sounded great. I got chills the first time he started to sing, and again the first time he played the harmonica. It really was a treat to see him live.
The only lull came when he tried to orchestrate an audience sing-along with men singing one bit and women singing another. It was pretty much a trainwreck and the show kind of came to a halt. Then he kicked into “Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours)” and things were off and running again.