A Time To Love - Press Release
The Sunday Observer
We Came, We Saw, He Conquered
Stevie Wonder at Abbey Road Studio
Caspar Llewellyn Smith
Sunday 13 Nov. 2005
Last week, Stevie Wonder's credentials were affirmed by no less a
musical authority than Sir Christopher Meyer, Britain's former
ambassador to Washington. His newly published memoirs include an account
of a state dinner at the White House at which Elton John and Wonder both
performed. 'Wonder's virtuosity made Elton John sound like a pub
pianist,' he recalls, 'and he wrapped up the evening singing "My Cherie
Amour". Cherie [Blair] looked starstruck, almost overwhelmed by the
glamour of the occasion.'
In London last Wednesday night, the 55-year-old delivered a
similarly stellar performance in similarly intimate surroundings, albeit
before a marginally less starry crowd. The gig in studio one at Abbey
Road was to promote his new album, A Time to Love, and for broadcast on
Radio 2. Rather than just play tunes from that record, his first for 10
years, and rather than just fulfil his obligation to perform for an
hour, Wonder plundered his back catalogue and was still going strong
after more than two-and-a-half hours.
His hairstyle might yet rival the Bobby Charlton combover as the
preferred method of disguising male baldness - dreadlocks sprout from
two-thirds back on the Wonder skull - but nothing else suggested that
the years have taken their toll on the singer.
Highlights? Yards from the stage, 'Livin' for the City' sounded like
a highlight; 'Sir Duke' sounded like a highlight; 'Golden Lady' sounded
like a highlight; they all sounded like highlights. He brought his
eldest daughter, Aisha Morris, on stage and sang something he'd once
written for her - 'Isn't She Lovely' - and then they goofed around
He weathered the appearance of Motown president Sylvia Rhone with
good grace (although was finally forced to interrupt her gushing
eulogies with a curt: 'Get out of here') and sweetly introduced the
audience to his long-time British manager, Keith Harris. He thanked the
promoters who'd first brought him to this country. He played 'I Just
Called to Say I Love You'.
By now, the couple of hundred in the audience - mostly competition
winners, plus (bizarrely) a medley of comedic actors (Peter Kay, Sacha
Baron Cohen and Martin Freeman) - were so bowled over that no one took
that opportunity to head for the bar.
'Shelter in the Rain', from the new album (from which, in the event,
he played little else) was prefaced by Wonder talking about the recent
deaths of his brother, Larry Hardaway, and his former wife, Syreeta
Wright, and proved especially moving.
The sound was terrible, but the 10-piece band was wonderfully slick
and Wonder seemed a humble man, thankful for what life has brought him.
It is we who ought to be thankful.