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A Time To Love - Press Release

Evening Standard

He's Still Our Boy Wonder
Stevie Wonder - Abbey Road Studio One
John Aizlewood
Thursday 10 Nov. 2005

Stevie Wonder is not one to be rushed. Last night's remarkable three-hour show at the most intimate of venues was his first British concert since 1999. His new album A Time 2 Love was a decade in the making. By Kate Bush's standards it is a rush-release, but it is snail's pace for America's fifth most successful recording artist, who, in 1972, released two classic albums, Music Of My Mind and Talking Book.

At home, he sired two boys, four-year-olds Kailand and Mandla, but he suffered bereavements with the deaths of his brother Larry Hardaway and his still-beloved former wife Syreeta Wright.

Understandably, A Time 2 Love deals more with matters of the heart than with the social issues that helped transform Wonder from mere musician into global statesman. Last night he was in occasionally reflective mood, speaking movingly of his losses and dedicating several songs to Wright. Mostly, though, he was typically impish, impersonating himself as a childhood prodigy and attempting a Dick Van Dykestandard Cockney accent.

The show, performed on the spot where the Beatles broadcast All You Need Is Love to the world in 1967, was always going to be special. An hour's wait outside, then Wonder arrived 40 minutes late - but nothing could dampen the ardour and electric atmosphere generated by a select crowd of 250 competition winners, music industry folk and celebrities including comedians Peter Kay and Rowland Rivron, singer Paul Carrack and The Office star Martin Freeman and co-writer/ director Stephen Merchant.

Backed by a 10-piece band who were frequently bamboozled by their leader's cheekily maverick ways, Wonder was on mesmerising, mercurial form.

A Time 2 Love was plugged extensively; obscure tracks such as 1973's Golden Lady were dusted down, but, to the crowd's delight, it was mostly hits, even after a thrilling early salvo of Master Blaster (Jammin'), Higher Ground and Living For The City. Later on, there was something I never expected to encounter: a room packed with people who all adored I Just Called To Say I Love You.

As the set moved into its third hour, there was a delightful cameo. Wonder's daughter Aisha Morris, whose arrival inspired Isn't She Lovely, emerged to duet with Pops on the tongue-twisting new song Positivity, only to be surprised moments later by dad's endearingly ragged rendition of Isn't She Lovely.

After a gorgeous As, with the clock way past 11, Wonder was led off stage, bidding us farewell with a cheery: "I will never ever forget this night. I love you to pieces, God bless you!" The feeling was mutual.