On the night before Halloween, musical-genius Stevie Wonder serenaded a nearly sold-out crowd at Verizon Center in downtown D.C., where tickets ranged from $68-$128. The multi-instrumentalist and singer performed for nearly two and a half hours, playing from his entire musical catalogue spanning over 40 years.
Without an opening band, Wonder, who has been blind since his infancy, was escorted to the front of the stage by his daughter, Aisha Morris, who also performed as one of the backup singers throughout the set. Before the rest of his band came out, Wonder spoke candidly to the enormous audience about his love of D.C., playing music, and about losing his mother last year, to which he said this tour was dedicated.
While Wonder played a grand piano and two keyboards at the front of the stage, his enormous backup band provided much energy for the eager and mostly older crowd that was often seen to be standing up and dancing throughout the arena. Wonder’s band consisted of two guitarists, a bass player, two other keyboardists, a drummer and two other auxiliary percussionists. Nevertheless, Stevie stole most of the attention as he showed off his time-honored vocal range, keyboard, and harmonica skills throughout the performance.
Most of the songs followed one another with very little time in between; however, Stevie took the time to intimately talk to the audience on occasion on topics ranging from the state of the world, the importance of loving one another, the stupidity of hatred and racism, and even some funny childhood stories about chasing girls.
In the middle of “Ribbon in the Sky,” Wonder had the entire audience inside the Verizon Center split between “Ladies!” and “Fellas!”, singing two separate vocal accompaniments as he belted the chorus over and over.
At one point, he also played around with the arrangements of some of his most famous songs, like with “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” when he told the audience that it could also be played as a country-western song, at which point he had the entire band play a slow, country jam with a twangy guitar and a slow riff as he sang in a forced ‘country’ accent, “signed, sealed, delivered – I’m yours!” Needless to say, the audience ate it up.
For playing a venue as large as the Verizon Center, Wonder was still able to be extremely personable and intimate with the crowd. Before playing “My Cherie Amour,” he told the audience the story about how he came to write the song when he was only 15-years-old and was trying to get a pretty girl named Marcia to give him a kiss while he was on tour in Chicago.
Wonder ended the show with one of his most famous pieces, “Superstition,” and then preached to the crowd before he walked off about the importance of love and peace. “The heart is used to spread love,” he shouted. “Use your heart to love yourselves! We can make a difference in the world!”
Upon walking off stage, arm in hand with his daughter Aisha, he assured the crowd, “I already miss you too much! Maybe three much!” Although there was disappointingly no encore performance after he walked off stage, fans were still pleased with the show.