A Time To Love - Press Release
Wonder Dazzles At Intimate London Show
Saturday 12 Nov. 2005
Among the packed, excited crowd of 300 at one of London's most
famous musical landmarks, a sense of Wonder was tangible. The Motown
legend was about to perform a one-off concert for national adult
contemporary broadcaster BBC Radio 2, open only to contest winners,
media and label staff. This ticket was so hot, it was almost
untouchable, for what was surely one of the most intimate shows Wonder
had ever played.
Yet for all the feverish anticipation, a whiff of uncertainty hung
in the air, not least because of his famously approximate sense of
punctuality ("Stevie time," as we disciples have come to know it). After
all, 10 years passed between the artist's 1995 album "Conversation
Peace" and the brand new "A Time 2 Love." Would he do justice to his
awe-inspiring catalog, or merely nod toward the classics, distracted by
promotional duties for the new project?
More than two-and-a-half hours later, we were leaving the room
having to resize our wildest dreams. This was a show of epic
proportions, from the moment Wonder and his band opened with a
tinglingly prescient "Love's in Need of Love Today," to the elongated
"As" that finally closed the proceedings. In between, the on-stage
electricity suffered barely a minor outage.
Indeed, it was over an hour before Wonder even played anything from
the new album, nor did he touch on anything from his 1960s repertoire at
all, although he teased us by picking up his harmonica and referring to
"Fingertips" at one point. The show was heavily weighted toward his
incredible output of the 1970s, in a dream selection of hits and album
tracks, almost all of them performed with an unbeatable combination of
relaxed expressiveness and remarkably disciplined observation of the
recorded versions. The net result was a vivid reminder of Wonder's
It was a joy to hear Wonder in such apparently effortless harmony
with an outstanding band, which kicked into "Masterblaster (Jammin')"
with unified determination. Then, another frisson as Stevie leaned
forward to pick out the jabbing organ of "Higher Ground."
Perhaps the most poignant moment came as Wonder, alone now at the
keyboard, played "Golden Lady" and "Superwoman" before preparing for the
beautiful ballad "You and I" by explaining how hard it was for him to
play the song. He remembered the first time he had sung it to his former
wife Syreeta Wright, who died of cancer in the summer of last year. The
memory brought him very close to tears, and made the performance deeply
A happier family connection occurred when Wonder introduced his
daughter Aisha Morris and they stood shoulder to shoulder to perform
"Positivity," their duet from the new album and its new single in the
U.K. Father and daughter horsed around gleefully, and in the same
spontaneous spirit Stevie then peeled off "Isn't She Lovely," the hit on
which Morris featured as a toddler at her bath time. "Isn't he lovely?"
she sang in response.
Wonder returned to the new album for "My Love Is on Fire," which he
said he had always wanted Luther Vandross to sing, and gave us such
ballad treats as "Joy Inside My Tears" and "Ribbon in the Sky." A
blinding upbeat segment featured "All I Do," "Sir Duke" and "I Wish"
before he welcomed Motown president Sylvia Rhone on stage. Then Wonder
playfully took the microphone from her, when Rhone's eulogy about the
star was showing no signs of self-editing.
Wonder also acknowledged the part played in his recording career by
the surroundings, reprising two songs recorded at Abbey Road, "Tuesday
Heartbreak" and "Maybe Your Baby." A dangerously funky "Superstition"
and "You Haven't Done Nothing" preceded another emotional reference to
Syreeta, before the new ballad "Shelter in the Rain." The closing "As"
was even longer than the recorded version, with solos for every band
The key of life had been well and truly struck, on a night that is
already a golden memory. Radio 2 will broadcast a 90-minute edit of the
concert Dec. 10 and will air a further 60 minutes in January.