It’s a hot Tuesday in Dublin city and the River Liffey is steaming.
Inside the 3 Arena the mosh pit of Stevie enthusiasts fills the entire ground floor; I’ve never seen it so full before. It’s July but the funky DJ laps up one of my favourites, Earth Wind and Fire’s ‘September’. All in all, the DJ has everybody wired up and twisting for Wonder. DJ even pushes a Pogues sound out.
The man who cools my head whenever I hear him sing is escorted on stage by two ladies, he’s always hot, but must be even more so in his significant ‘Life, Love, Music’ jacket.
Our beloved Stevie Wonder’s movement has slightly changed, but his tenor and tone tops the pops. When he starts jamming with Master Blaster the seated get standing. The engagement rocks up when he shouts, ‘I love you’. This is a very significant American in Ireland, way beyond any political one.
The audience rocks when another ‘Jamming’ comes up, this time we hear Bob Marley’s ‘Don’t you worry ‘bout a thing’. As the night goes on, there is a phenomenal tribute to the most talented who are no longer with us.
Those lost are all part of the full-time on-stage pattern of Stevie.
He is bringing his incredible songs back to us, and they don’t sound like they’re over 40 years old. In between, we hear ‘What’s Going On;’ ‘Billie Jean;’ ‘When Doves Cry;’ ‘Let’s Dance;’ ‘Rehab;’ ‘Respect’ and suddenly you realise that Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson, Prince, David Bowie, Minnie Riperton, Amy Winehouse and Aretha Franklin are no longer with us.
All the poetic songwriters we loved, some young, some not so young, are gone too early, but promoted by Stevie.
And he doesn’t just bring himself to the stage, he embraces the audience and asks ‘Do you all believe in Unity?’ and says ‘You create a journey in your heart and move on no matter what… are you with me?’ Our audience roars and he soars into “For Once in My Life” and presents the gift of ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours;’ the song of youth, before we knew what was to come. And in his Dublin concert there were 10-year olds to perhaps 70 year olds.
I could leave out the ‘I just called to say I love you’, it never worked for me. But Stevie raised the Arena roof with ‘Sir Duke’; ‘I Wish’; the ingenuity and inspiration of ‘Living for the city’; the romantic intrigue of ‘My Cherie Amour’; and ‘You are the sunshine of my life.’
Since the 1970’s, the gifted 69-year-old has 25 Grammys and 100 million record sales. He might spend a lot of his current show swivelling between a grand piano and keyboard stack, resting and grinning, clapping as we all belt back to his beautiful sound in full throttle.
But when Stevie continues his tribute to our lost superstars and launches himself into John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’, it is as if he is reviving and reminding us. Concluding with ‘Superstition’ ramps the incredible stage set, and his backing singers, all of whom he invited to sing individually. Wonder needs time out to recover from his upcoming operation; performing in Dublin this week has been a special gift for our city.
I just hope our city audience is a gift back to him.
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