Stevie Wonder – O2, London

Friday 12th September 2008

Following the shows at the NIA and MEN Arena earlier in the week, I was really looking forward to going to the O2, especially as we had floor seats this time around.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect, as this was the first visit to the O2. I was hugely impressed. I don’t think I have ever seen so many restaurants and bars in one place. When you enter the O2 arena itself, you get the sense that you are in a mini-stadium with a roof. Whilst not as close as A block, our front row seats in D block, gave us ample space to dance away.

To my great satisfaction, Stevie Wonder opened again with half the songs from Hotter Than July. Before the tour, I was hoping just to hear one of these, but to get 5 each night was more than I could have hoped for.

As with previous shows, Stevie took time out to address the crowd, in respect to the passing away of his mother. Not quite sure what the crowd at the O2 made of his pain. But from my perspective, it was once again difficult to hear, considering the parallels we both went through in 2006.

Stevie Wonder sang the usual collection of obscure and hit songs that I’d heard earlier in the week. I was delighted that he also performed We Can Work It Out, the outstanding Lately and one of my all time favourites Golden Lady. And just for fun, he also played a rendition of London Bridge is Falling Down!

Unlike the NIA and MEN Arena shows, I left with the feeling of slight disappointment. This had nothing to do with Stevie Wonder’s performance, as he was outstanding. The O2 was lacking slightly in atmosphere. Maybe the sound wasn’t as loud as it should have been or maybe large parts of the crowd turned up expecting to see him just perform his greatest hits. It was as if half the crowd had never even heard of Visions or All I Do before. I guess they were pleased when he sang I Just Called To Say I Love You and Signed Sealed Delivered, I’m Yours.

All said and done, it was another great experience. I got to see Stevie Wonder again, had much more space available to dance and was fortunate to hear Lately and Golden Lady live!

Stevie Wonder – MEN Arena, Manchester

Tuesday 9th September 2008

Following last night’s performance in Birmingham, there was no time to get excited about tonight’s show, even though it was day 2 of 6 on the Stevie Wonder adventure trail.

I managed to fall asleep around 3am, but was awake around 8am.  The reason wasn’t excitement, but the fact there were 8 men in the back garden starting work on a new patio.  The timing of both the work and the tour was a test, especially for an insomniac.

I can be impatient, so I aim to time things perfectly, thus keeping any waiting time to a minimum. Unfortunately, this means that I’m late most of the time. For a change, I decided to get the earlier train to London Euston, giving me enough time to collect the tickets for the trip to Manchester Picadilly. However, a long queue for the machine at the local train station, meant I had no time to purchase a ticket, thinking I’ll just buy one at the other end.  The train inspector begged to differ. I had the choice of getting off at the next stop and purchasing a ticket, thereby losing another 30 minutes or paying a £20 fine. Decided the fine was the only option, considering I had left earlier to enable a trouble-free journey!

Arrived at Euston to collect the tickets from the self-service machines. I tried a number of times, but no booking could be found. It then dawned on me, that I’d used a new credit card to make the booking and that was still on the coffee table back home! There was a long queue at the ticket office and time was running out before the train’s departure. The guy behind the desk couldn’t have made the situation more difficult and my stupidity any clearer. Eventually, he issued new tickets, minutes before the train’s departure.

Just to prove these things come in 3’s, at the hotel my booking of 2 twin beds, was somehow amended to 1 double. This felt like something out of the Truman Show or maybe I was on an episode of Beadle’s About. But after checking the original booking, the receptionist changed it back to the relief of both myself and my friend.

After a nice oriental meal, we went off to the MEN Arena. I pretty much gave away 2 spare tickets to a tout minutes before the show, who in turn made a tidy profit, selling them to a couple who turned up without tickets, just before 8pm.  So the tout made a profit and the couple still got in for half the ticket price.

Stevie Wonder was once again led on stage by Aisha Morris: his daughter and one of the backing singers.  My excitement was there for all to see, as he commenced with another array of songs from Hotter Than July.

Once again Stevie took time out to address the crowd, in respect to the passing away of his mother. Once again, the crowd listened to every word, feeling his pain.

Thankfully, unlike the previous evening at the NIA, where at times the show was broken up with a few too many interruptions, Stevie Wonder gave an amazing performance and the crowd loved him even more for it.  The fans in the arenas in both Birmingham and Manchester made him feel he’d made the right decision to tour Europe again.

The best thing about tonight’s show was that Stevie decided to mix things up a bit.  Whilst the majority of the songs were the same as those he performed at the NIA, the audience at the MEN Arena were blessed to hear 3 of my all time favourites songs: As, Do I Do and Knocks Me Off My Feet. Stevie also performed Isn’t She Lovely, a song famously written about Aisha, when she was baby. It was great to see Stevie joking about it with Aisha on stage too.

Once again, a superb show.  With a slightly different set, it flowed much better and I loved it!

Stevie Wonder – NIA, Birmingham

Monday 8th September 2008

I had hoped to see Stevie Wonder perform live in concert again, ever since the Natural Wonder tour way back in 1995. I didn’t expect to go to Birmingham, but when struggling to get tickets for the O2, I simply had to book the NIA.

In addition, I booked tickets for the MEN Arena in Manchester and two nights at the O2, as soon as extra dates were released.  The bookings didn’t stop there, as Paris and Stockholm were added.  A total of 6 nights to make up for a 13 year-long wait.

We drove up to Birmingham early, giving us plenty of time to grab a bite to eat. Ended up having gourmet burgers, accompanied with a bottle of champagne.  Arriving at the NIA, we took our seats in anticipation.  I had hoped that Stevie would perform a song from Hotter Than July, as this was my most played album since the mid-80s.

Stevie Wonder was led on stage by Aisha Morris: his daughter and one of the backing singers.  A Wonder Summer’s Night Tour began with As If You Had Read My Mind, All I Do, Rocket Love, Did I Hear You Say You Love Me and Master Blaster.  Wow, I had hoped for one song from my most played album of all-time, but amazingly I got five!

Stevie took time out to address the crowd, explaining what motivated him to tour again.  The next few moments were really tough. He began talking about the death of his mother in May 2006.  Only then did it hit home, when I realised that my mother had passed away 6 weeks earlier, in April 2006. For a minute or so, he explained the anguish he was going through, summing it all up with “I wanted to take all the pain that I was feeling and turn it into joy”.

There were a few odd moments, where the audience probably felt a bit lost during the show.  Notably, when Stevie introduced George Boateng, the ex-Villa midfielder. He arrived holding a statue, honouring Arthur Wharton, the world’s first black professional footballer, from 1885. The link being both players were born in Ghana.

It didn’t take long for Stevie to deliver some exceptional performances.   These included Visions, Ribbon in the Sky, Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing, Higher Ground, Living for the City, Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours, Uptight (Everything’s Alright), My Cherie Amour, I Was Made to Love Her, Overjoyed, I Just Called to Say I Love You, Superstition, I Wish and Sir Duke.  Stevie ended with an extended version of Always.

I loved the show, then again I’m a biased Stevie Wonder fan.  To be honest, he had me at ‘the first 5 songs’!