November 1, 2007
Atlanta , GA
There was a time when music mattered. It was more than a soundtrack to your life. It inspired you to think differently, to be a better person, to connect with the world around you and to know you were part of something bigger than yourself.
Whenever Stevie Wonder plays, that time is now.
After 20 years away from the touring circuit (except for a few rare dates), Stevie Wonder has managed to make it to Atlanta twice in three months. For a music fan like me, this is a dream come true. I was crushed that I couldn't make it to the September performance but I was lucky enough to be in attendance for the November 1 show. And I mean I was lucky.
Due to snarled Atlanta traffic, things didn't get underway until an hour after ticket time but within minutes, all troubles had been forgotten. Stevie was here and he was in amazing form. Kicking things off with Songs In The Key Of Life's “Love's In Need Of Love Today”, it didn't take long to remember how unique and singular an artist can be. A dreamy version of “Visions” slowly morphed into a hypnotic and powerful litany of the world's problems which culminated in a challenge to world leaders to acknowledge that “war is not the answer”. Before long the whole crowd was shouting out “Stop the war! Stop the killing! Stop the hatred! Stop it”. I was spellbound. I had chills. The crowd and the performer were one voice. That's the way it should be.
“Living For The City” followed and the crowd continued to join in, even singing along with the instrumental passages. From there, it was one highlight after another. “Master Blaster (Jammin')” and “Higher Ground” had us all dancing. A playful and extended duet with India.Arie on “Ribbon In The Sky” had us laughing. Deep cut “Don't You Worry ‘Bout A Thing” had all heads bobbing.
Following a typically potent take of “Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I'm Yours)”, Wonder took us even further back. In a particularly nostalgic mood this evening, not only did the 57-year old singer do the usual “My Cherie Amour” from his earliest days but he veered strongly from the planned list with several rarities. He kept calling out chords to the band. “Do that thing y'all do in F sharp!” Then he led us into a raucous version of “Uptight”. With every song, he'd say, “just one more”. We wound up getting “Hey Love”, “I Was Made To Love Her” and “For Once In My Life” thrown in before he went back to the plan.
And when he went back to the plan, there was no stopping anyone. “Sir Duke” and “I Wish” were positively celebratory. Smiles were everywhere and the energy continued to rise as the night grew later. During “Do I Do”, Wonder suddenly bolted from the keyboard seat to climb up on top of the piano. He waved his arms, goading the crowd even more. Before the song was over, he had his crew round up about 5 rappers from the audience and then turned his mic over to them. One at a time, each of them took the inspiration and ran with it. To my surprise, every one of them was good. Everything was working at this point.
Following a beautiful “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life”, the unmistakable beat of “Superstition” echoed through the arena. The clavinet rang out and the pseudo-gospel funk took over. I couldn't believe I was finally able to witness Stevie Wonder hammering the stone-cold classic home. The addition of “What The Fuss?” to the end of the tune even managed to make it better!
I can only imagine how long the gig would've lasted if the local curfew hadn't ended it. He left us with the beautiful sentiment of “As.”
“Change your words into truths and then change that truth into love.”
At that moment, it sounded simple.
Before leaving the stage, Wonder announced that he wants to come back to Atlanta . Next time, he wants to spearhead a mass prayer for peace. Stevie Wonder still believes that we can change the world for the better. He still believes that we can turn the tragedy into triumph. He still believes that peace will conquer war and love will conquer hate. He still believes that we've got a chance. Tonight, he made me believe it too.
Photos and review by Chris McKay / concertshots.com
Stevie Wonder Set List For Atlanta on November 1, 2007: