One way to get people to smile at you on the street in New York City is to carry a giant floating smile emoji. Another is to hum Stevie Wonder’s Sir Duke. Anyone walking past me on Monday night would have had the opportunity to experience both, thanks to the wonder of Mr Wonder.
Stevie Wonder played three shows in three different cities – starting in Washington DC, then moving onto Philadelphia, before finishing at Central Park. The 65-year-old’s team made the announcement on the Internet, as links and passwords spread online, for the chance to see the legend perform a free show. Online, the tickets were gone in about a minute, but there were plenty being handed out in Gramercy Park. Or just outside the entrance to Summerstage, where people were feeling like Father Christmas handing out presents to strangers passing by. “Hey, do you need a ticket?” Here!” It was quite a lovely sight.
Inside Summerstage, on a muggy Monday night, Stevie took to the stage to great applause. He announced he’d be playing the last of his Songs in the Key of Life tour dates, for the US at least, this Autumn, and that he’d end the tour at Madison Square Garden. At these shows, the 65-year old has been playing for three hours at a time, so hitting three cities in one day seemed a breeze for him. After every song he performed on Monday night, he would let out an exuberant “ooh” or “aahhh.”
I’d only seen Stevie perform two songs at Nelson Mandela’s 91st birthday concert at Radio City Music Hall in 2008 and he seems just as spirited as back then in 2009.
Before he started singing, Stevie used the opportunity to speak on something he says he’s been praying about, the way he does about a song or anything else of importance in his life. He, like a lot of other Americans, wants to see stricter gun control and more accountability on the issue. He was met with resounding cheers. “If you shoot a gun, then you must claim the bullet,” he stated, before launching into an anthem that’s ever-necessary, Love’s In Need of Love Today.
When he started If It’s Magic, the woman behind me squealed, “oooh, this is my favourite!” Another few favourites followed: Village Ghetto Land, then Sir Duke, then I Wish, As, and finally Another Star. “We can’t stay here all night,” he teased. “But we gon’ be AlRIGHT!” he added – quoting the Kendrick Lamar track. Earlier he played a bit of the Weeknd’s Can’t Feel my Face. Ever the cool cat.
Stevie suggested he’ll be heading back to the studio once he’s wrapped this tour. Perhaps we’ll be treated to Kendrick and Stevie on a track together. Now that would be all RIGHT!