12 Things Dito Van Reigersberg Learned at Last Night’s Stevie Wonder Show at Wells Fargo Center
I am awed as I sit down at my old-fangled typewriter to report on Stevie Wonder’s show last night at the Wells Fargo Center. It was tremendous.
Stevie played grand piano, upright piano (on “Ebony Eyes”), several harmonicas, and he sang with his effortless tenor. He was backed by a sumptuous array of world-class performers, including a killer horn section, six stunning backup singers, India.Arie as his beauteous and fashionable guest vocalist, and a terrific string section plucked from Philly (including my friend and violin whiz Erica Miller, who accompanied my alter ego Martha Graham Cracker at L’Etage for my all-string-quartet show last Thursday.)
Here are 12 things I learned during last night’s show that I thought you might find interesting, as well:
- He sang his 1976 masterpiece Songs in the Key of Life from start to finish. I never saw him take a sip of water. This alone seems a miracle. Also, the album is kind of a masterpiece. It has a flow and a majesty that really rewards the listener who takes it in in one shebang. Try it.
- I can’t believe Stevie was born in 1950 and can still sing like that. High notes don’t elude him. And he sang for over 3 hours total!
- One of his backup singers is his daughter Aisha, who is famously the inspiration for his 1976 hit “Isn’t She Lovely.”
- India.Arie’s vocals blended perfectly with Stevie’s on “Saturn”—a gospel-tinged, goosebumps-inducing song that I didn’t know.
- Keith John, another backup singer of Stevie’s, is from Philly. He was challenged by Stevie to a vocal riff-off, which was like watching two daredevil acrobats goof off 50 feet in the air without a net.
- Stevie also informed us that Keith John is the son of Little Willie John, the man who first recorded the classic song “Fever.”
- For me, one of the major highlights was “Village Ghetto Land,” the third track on Songs. It was a moment when our hometown string section shone. You could feel the political conscience underpinning the album really start rising to the surface.
- Stevie knows more blind jokes than you can shake a stick at. Here’s one: During a segue he romantically crooned “Turn down the lights … ” and then said “Doesn’t make a difference to me.”
- The crowd was truly racially diverse. A rarity still in Philly. So fantastic!
- At one point Stevie asked everyone to sit down (“Are you sitting or standing? I can’t tell.”) Then he got political. He said there was something troubling his heart, and that, while he usually likes to preach love, there’s a problem he wanted to address. “Stand up if you believe there’s a gun problem in this country.” The crowd roared to its feet.
- Personally, I was inspired to add a few more Songs In the Key of Life tunes to Martha’s repertoire. She’s already done “Ebony Eyes” and “I Wish,” but I’d love to do “As.” I just need an amazing backup vocal army.
- I also learned that I’m not a great photographer. So instead of suffering through my blurry shots, enjoy some of these great videos from last night that just popped up on YouTube: