Before he said a single word, the crowd was on its feet. The word “legend” isn’t a word that’s thrown around very often but on Monday November 12th, the packed Air Canada Centre witnessed the living legend known as Stevie Wonder. After speaking to the crowd a little about how the “A Wonder Autumn Night” tour began, and sharing a few anecdotes, Wonder opened up his lengthy set with “Love’s In Need of Love Today” from one of his milestone records from 1976, Songs In The Key Of Life.
The first song that really got the crowd going was “Visions” from 1973’s Innervisions and Wonder concluded the song with a powerful chant saying of war and hate with unabashed passion in his voice: “I can’t believe it! This is unacceptable!” bringing the crowd to its feet once again. Before they could sit down, Wonder hit them with the hook for one of his big hits from Innervisions, “Living For The City.” A funky keyboard solo then lead Wonder into a playful medley using a vocal transformer on his keyboard singing out the melody to classics like George Clinton’s “We Want The Funk” and The Supremes’ “Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)” and naturally Wonder had the crowd singing the lyrics back to him. After the medley of covers, Wonder’s fingers did not leave the keyboard before the recognizable opening riff from 1973’s “Higher Ground” hit and the crowd jumped back to their feet and started dancing.
Continuing on with tracks from Innervisions, Wonder slowed down the tempo with the ballad “Golden Lady” and then moved on to 1982’s romantic “Ribbon In The Sky.” Continuing on with the rhythm of “Ribbon,” Wonder treated the crowd to a vintage vocal solo and talked a little about the song before giving a part to sing to all the ladies and all the guys at the ACC. Once each group had gotten their parts down, Wonder had them sing the parts together leading into an acapella harmony that pleased the legend to no end.
Just like that, Wonder switched gears and jumped into “Overjoyed” from his 1985 album In Square Circle, with a spectacular harmonica solo. After the heart-wrenching 1980 hit “Lately” from Hotter Than July, Wonder went from ballads to bongos as he brought the show back into full swing with an upbeat Latin-style jam with trading solos between his percussionists, and a special guest percussionist who, like Wonder, was visually impaired but incredibly talented.
At this point, Wonder began firing off his hugest hits one by one starting with “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” from 1970’s Signed, Sealed and Delivered. He teased the crowd with a “country version” of the song and playfully showed off his ability to play all different styles. He then shared yet another anecdote, this time about 1969’s “My Cherie Amour” and how it came to be, before playing it much to the delight of the nostalgic crowd. The string of hits just kept getting longer as Wonder went on to play “Sir Duke” and “I Wish” from Songs In The Key Of Life, as well as “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life” from 1972’s Talking Book. As the show began to wind down, Wonder still had a few tricks up his sleeve and certainly a lot more hits that would generate quite an emotional response from his long-time fans and new generations alike. Although no one opened for him, Wonder honoured Toronto by bringing out Canadian vocalist Glenn Lewis as his special guest and Lewis had the honour to perform the final songs that everyone was waiting for along with the legend himself.
Wonder manned his keyboard once again and the all-too-familiar opening clavinet groove of “Superstition” from Talking Book sent the crowd into a frenzy. Wonder then went on to play “Do I Do” from the 1982 album Stevie Wonder’s Original Musiquarium I, and of course, how could he possibly finish without treating the crowd to “I Just Called To Say I Love You” from the soundtrack to the 1984 film The Woman In Red.
Wonder certainly gave the crowd what they wanted, and interestingly enough did not touch a single song from his most recent album, 2005’s A Time To Love. With such a huge back catalogue of hits, who can blame him? Although he’s been at it since 1963, age has certainly not slowed down this incredible and inspirational musician. Without seeing, he wrote the music that spoke to generations and that’s why he’s truly a legend and truly a “Wonder.”
Writer: Joe Chammas