Based on JSJ's general enthusiasm for Stevie Wonder shows of late, when I almost accidentally learned he was playing in Austin, we made a snap decision to buy tickets and go. It was the Songs In The Key of Life tour, Easter Saturday night. I don't really do big, expensive shows, but JSJ was right about McCartney, I had a good feeling about Stevie Wonder, and Minnie was into the idea. So I went online when tickets went on sale and snagged some $85 cheap seats at the local basketball arena, which holds probably around 15,000. We were half way up the upper deck near the side of the stage.
I had thought to myself, what a pity he won't be playing Innervisions (my preferred Stevie Wonder record) with some odd deep cuts and hits thrown in. I've always had an ambivalent relationship with Songs In The Key. I've always had it on cd, and who plays the second cd? The first cd is pretty hit or miss as it is. Anyway, I promised myself to listen to it more before the show, but then it kinda snuck up on us.
I'm pretty sure a lot of people in the crowd didn't know Songs In The Key from any other record anyone made 45 years ago. And it's kind of a weird record. So it was kind of a weird show. Anyway, he brought a huge band, with a locally sourced string section, and I figured he was gonna go all out, and I would go along with it. It was pretty fucking great! But playing a double record that is all over the place mostly in sequence to a crowd that mostly doesn't really know the record makes for a strange experience, which means that there were some real gaps. I mean, it's a long way from "I Wish" to "As!" But he pulled the damn thing off, almost effortlessly. At times, I thought that the big band with all the percussion and keyboards playing in the arena gave the music a bit of a lumbering feel, but I think it was worth it for him to pull the whole enchilada off as best he could. And nobody was in the way when they were GOING OFF on the big hits.
It's always hard to tell how spontaneous this stuff is, but he went off the script a few times and went into an Ernest Tubb-->Charlie Rich-->Al Green medley, which was really fun. End the end, he played for a solid 3.5 hours, and I think he would have done a little more had the crowd been more insane. In the end, it is manifestly clear that the motherfucker is full of music, it just pours out of him. You know this from things you read about him and listening to his records, but it really comes through when he nails all these super funky numbers and then switches to ballads, and goes from harmonica to organ to piano to that weird fingerboard instrument. And he could have easily gone on for another three hours with all killer, no filler jams. This tour is pretty much over, but I'll go back if he comes back to our neighborhood.
At the time of the show, I had more mixed feelings about it---the bogus crowd, the weird pacing, the imperfect sound. But you know what? Ever since then, I've been consumed by the need to listen to these records, and I've gone from real ambivalence about Songs In The Key of Life to embracing it as much as almost any other record I love. I'll bump THAT thread when I get the chance.
Jimbo wrote:But there is hope for pessimism.
take5_d_shorterer wrote:If John Bonham simply didn't listen to enough Tommy Johnson or Blind Willie Mctell, that's his doing.