Friday, October 31, 2008

Songs in the key of Stevie

One word Stevie review - DAAAAAAAAMMMMMMMMMMNNNN!!!!!!

a few more words on Stevie......

8.45 pm, the lights suddenly go off in Vector Arena, and Stevie comes out to his 11 piece band grooving on a laid-back funky version of a Miles Davis tune (All Blues), and he's playing harmonica as lead and it's wicked. Then it was off into Master Blaster, Stevie flips a verse and sings about Obama, and kills it. And he's only two songs in. Damn, this is gonna be good. Gotta say, the sound was really good - bit muddly in the bottom end, but you could hear everything.

After a few more songs, the pattern of the evening is set - funky song, slow song, funky song, slow song. Was talking after with a friend, and we both noticed that his slow ballads seem to get big cheers of recognition from the crowd right from the opening bars, but we didn't even know the songs in question. Maybe I gotta study up on Stevie ballads? Pass.

You want songs? Okay, we had Higher Ground, Superstition, Sir Duke, I Wish, Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing, Signed Sealed Delivered, Living For The City.... plus some cheese -I just called to say I love you, My Cherie Amour... those two, everyone in the place sang every word. Who knew that Stevie's 80s cheese was his most popular stuff? Probably every karaoke bar in the country. Heard from a friend in London that at a show he did there earlier this year after a 10 year absence he felt compelled to close that show with a 10 min medley of ALL his cheesy hits. Glad he skipped that one tonight.

Question - why do people feel compelled to text during a concert? I was seated up near the back, and was looking down at the main floor seating, here, approximately 40-50 cellphones were glowing in the dark at any one time (yeah, I counted em - nerd). Maybe we need to ban cellphones from concerts so that people pay attention?

At one point in the evening, I was grooving out to Stevie dropping the 2nd chorus of Higher Ground, and looked over at the young guy sitting two seats over from me - he was head down, intently texting. Why would you choose to do that, when one of the greatest musicians alive today is onstage RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU dropping a stone-cold classic? That's is just deeply wrong.

My better half suggested that it's this mass neurosis, that people think there's something better happening somewhere else, and you have to find out where that is. Put that phone away, and be in the moment. It took Stevie 21 years to return to our shores, and he might not come back again. Rant over.

During one slow number, Stevie did his talking to the crowd about needing love in our hearts, and peace and unity and other hippie sentiments, but then he got onto talking about how things have got to change, and that's why he's voting yes for Obama (cue crowd cheers). Stevie said "you know, a lotta people say 'oh, but you're just voting for him just cos he's black', and well, to me, McCain and Obama look exactly the same. But that's just, some people get stuck on stupid. So, when you're watching TV or reading the papers, and people are going on about stuff, just say to yourself, Dont Get Stuck On Stupid. Can you say that for me?"And we all said it for Stevie. Cos that's damn good advice in an election year.

He introduced his daughter Aisha (one of the four backup singers), sang Happy Birthday (his Martin Luther King Jr tribute) for one of his other singers cos it was her birthday (she got cake onstage too); some local contest winner came out and sang with him. Stevie also threw in a medley of some of his fave tunes, like Heard it on the grapevine, Papa was a rolling stone, More bounce to the ounce (Zapp!!!!) and Billie Jean, all done thru a talkbox. That was cool and all, but he's got a deep catalogue to trawl thru. Play your own stuff! And don't make us sing it for you! Hate that.

Early in the show, Stevie took a moment to pay tribute to Levi Stubbs of the Four Tops, who passed away last week. Stevie told us that Stubbs taught him a lot about singing, helped him out, sang on Uptight, and so Stevie sang a Four Tops song for him - I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch). His band delivered it with style - they were a stellar lineup of unknown musicians (although Stevie did have the incredible talents of Mr Nathan Watts on bass, who goes back to Stevie's classic 70's albums. When he jammed out on the last part of I Wish, it was jaw-droppingly good).

Stevie closed with As, one of my fave tunes of his, and then he was gone, after over two and a half hours onstage. The house lights came on, we filed out, and I ended up bumping into a bunch of fellow BaseFM DJs outside, all still buzzing. Daaaammmnnnn!!!!

He said he's going to come back soon. Don't miss it.


ADDED Official reviews from NZ Herald's Scott Kara, and Waikato Times' Jeff Neems, both very positive. Both got the Miles Davis song wrong - the album is called Kind of Blue, the song is All Blues. [But I got the second song title wrong - it wasnt Hotter than July, it was Master blaster, which features the lyric hotter than July]


Bonus - Stevie Wonder on Sesame St (1970s), dropping Superstition - wait for the end where he starts singing about Sesame Street. Love this clip. Link

2 comments:

J Bluevibe said...

Amazing gig and couldn't take my eye's of it for a second, how often would anybody get to experience a band like that led by one of the few legends of music. I'm not a fan of cheesy wonder either but you couldn't help but sing along and get in to it. Fist time at the Vector and hated the sound but hey, it's an arena gig and I don't envy anyone the task of mixing that band. Inspiring night all round

Smacked Face said...

Great review Peter! What a gig - I cried for the first 20 minutes - such a privilege...