Stevie Wonder gave an emotionally-charged performance to 65,000 people at London’s Hyde Park as part of the of the Barclaycard presents British Summer Time programme.
Escorted to the stage to the by two of his six backing singers, Stevie appeared emotional. He was to explain the reason for this at the end of the show.
What followed was two hours of Stevie magic. As If You Read My Mind from his 1980 album Hotter Than July opened the show with power and funk to die for. Master Blaster from the same album led into a heavy funk version of Higher Ground.
The funk turned to Latin groove for a majestic version of Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing with drummer and two percussionists taking centre stage. Stevie’s Song Party had well and truly started.
Back to Hotter Than July for a gorgeous, tender Rocket Love, one of the (many) top songs of the night.
Stevie had two guests join him to duet; Daley for You And I, and Corinne Bailey Rae for Creepin’.
Halfway through the set Stevie took a break onstage (an unsighted musician can’t easily go offstage while another musician takes an extended solo, the normal trick that artists will use to get a break) whilst the DJ led the crowd in a ten-minute singalong, including Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On and Aretha Franklin’s Respect. Stevie’s music condition which he would later elaborate on explained his need for a break.
Sir Duke and As were exceptional. Living For the City showed the talents of the backing singers. The classics kept coming, including For Once In My Life, My Cherie Amour, Signed Sealed Delivered and You Are The Sunshine of My Life. He laughingly introduced I Just Called To Say I Love You as “the song that you made a big one for Stevie.”
Perhaps the song of the night was the lesser known Do I Do, producing an extended groove from the excellent band. He finished with Superstition. Under the circumstances this was a remarkable show from a remarkable performer. It was a privilege to witness such a genius at work.
At the end of the show, Stevie announced, “I’m going to be doing three shows then taking a break. So, what’s going to happen is this, I’m going to have surgery. I’m going to have a kidney transplant, at the end of September this year. I’m all good, I’m all good, I’m all good. I have a donor, it’s all good. I want you to know I came here to give you my love and to thank you for your love. You ain’t gotta hear no rumours about nothing, I told you what’s up, I’m good, alright!” It was a typically defiant statement from an individual who has maintained his dignity and musical legacy in music for over 50 years.
Good luck with your operation Stevie. The UK sends you love right back.
Words and Live Photos by Chaz Brooks