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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Last Night: Stevie Wonder at the Sleep Train Pavilion

Posted By on Wed, Jul 9, 2008 at 8:48 AM


Stevie Wonder

Sleep Train Pavilion (Concord)

July 8, 2008

Review by Tamara Palmer

Better than: Sitting in traffic for almost three hours and not seeing Stevie Wonder.

With triple-digit temperatures causing citywide power outages, Concord was the epitome of Stevie Wonder’s Hotter Than July last night. And so it was fitting that Wonder would choose to play “Master Blaster,” one of the enduring classics on that album, early on in a two-plus hour show.

“Didn’t know you would be jammin’ ‘til the break of dawn,” he sang, and if the venue would have let him, Wonder seemed energetic enough to have happily done so.

To thoroughly cover all of his smash records, he would have needed most of the night, and probably some of this morning. But Wonder adapted by offering abbreviated versions of tunes like “Sir Duke” and “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” (the latter garnering a particularly lively crowd reaction).

He struck an easy, conversational tone with the audience, laughing as he drank green tea to soothe his “thoat.” He wondered how many children were born to his music and asked the fellas in attendance if they’ve ever played one of his songs in the bedroom.

“Have you used this one?” he asked, launching into the slow jam “Ribbon in the Sky,” which he followed with “Golden Lady.” “I have!”

Daughter Aisha Morris, who is one-third of Wonder’s backup singing team, later joined her dad at the piano for a solo turn. She remained at his side as he sang the song he wrote for her, 1976’s “Isn’t She Lovely?”

The set concentrated heavily on his most popular works from the ‘70s and ‘80s (“My Cherie Amour,” “Do I Do,” “Higher Ground,” “Living For the City”), but he still found time to sneak in “Keep Fooling Yourself Baby Girl,” a new song from the forthcoming album Through the Eyes of Wonder.

While ducking out during the prelude to the encore (“I Just Called To Say I Love You”) seemed smart since the gridlock getting there was beyond nasty, the opening strains of “Superstition” had us quickly turning back around.

Critic’s Notebook

Personal bias: Still floating on air after recent proclamation of love made directly to the man himself.

Random detail: Sleep Train has a whole area behind the lawn that could make for some pretty decent seating, but remains inexplicably unused.

By the way: San Francisco is home to “Wonder-Full,” the annual dance party honoring Stevie Wonder’s music that has packed nightclub Mighty to capacity for five years running.

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Janine Kahn


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