Stevie Wonder BST Hyde Park review: Kidney transplant news overshadows disappointing show
Stevie Wonder announced the news to the world at the very end of his show after a rousing Superstition. He will have the operation in September but reassured the crowd: “I’m all good, I’m all good, all good, I have a donor and it’s all good. I want you to know, I came here to give you my love and thank you for your love.” In fact, throughout the evening had had made similar declarations of love to the 62,000 fans gathered in Hyde Park. At the start of the night he told the crowd: “I thank you for all the years. I will spend the rest of my life thanking you. Are you ready to have a song party?”
Except it was a rather sporadic dance party. Judging the show purely on what was delivered, there were no overt signs of ill health in the 69-year-old. His voice remained able to find all those incredible notes and his musicianship was as remarkable as always.
The problem lay with the structure of the show and some noticible sound issues. We were in the front section and there were frequent frustrated cries of “Turn it up” around us.
In respect to the absolute legend on stage let’s accentuate the positive first.
Don’t You Worry Bout A Thing and For Once In My Life were early highlighs and prompted one of the biggest cheers when he broke out the harmonica. A passionate protest against hatred and prejudice lead into Just Enough For The City before crowd joyously filled in the ‘la la las’ on My Cherie Amour and felt the love on You Are The Sunshine of My Life.
For the second night in a row the headliner also delivered a powerful heart-felt version of John Lennon’s Imagine, Stevie’s soul-filled jam contrasting nicely with the beautiful purity of Celine Dion on Friday.
His musicianship was sensational throughout (as were the slick backing band and singers) and the crowd revelled in joining in with the saxophone on the sensational Sir Duke.
A bit of rain didn’t dampen the crowd’s spirits and Stevie quipped “there’s no clouds in my heart” as he built to the big finish with a massive singalong on I Just Called to Say I Love You. Superstition remains irresistible.
So, why the three stars?
The show was simply overlong with too many flat periods (and those sound issues). A trulty ill-judged DJ section in the middle went on far too long with SIX tracks – Marvin Gaye’s What’s Goin On, Michael Jackson’s Billy Jean, David Bowie’s Let’s Dance, Amy Winehouse’s Rehab and Aretha’s Respect and Prince’s When Doves Cry. Had it been a proper interval it might have worked but with Stevie alternately sitting and standing on stage doing nothing at all it was bizarre and frustrating and a massive buzz-kill.
There were also some deeper cuts when Stevie brought out Corinne Bailey Ray for Creepin and Daley for You And I. Both have gorgeous silky smooth voices and the tracks are pure class but so slow and mellow they failed to reach the crowd. Extraordinary artistry but perhaps not the way to hold a giant field of people as the weather is turning.
There were just too many moments when the experinece felt like the world’s classiest background music. The show was simply too long and padded. It need some cutting and and who would ever think you could possibly wish for less of Stevie Wonder?
His health news at the end was upsetting but he is too much of a consummate artist for that to have affected the show.
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