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Concert Reviews:
Stevie Wonder plays a joyous Song Party in Windsor

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

Posted: Wednesday, November 7, 2018

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WINDSOR -- How does Stevie Wonder follow up an epic tour celebrating one of the greatest albums of all time?

By playing a bunch of great Stevie Wonder songs -- which is exactly what he did on Tuesday night, Nov. 6, at the Colosseum in Caesars Windsor.

The last time he played these parts -- at the Palace of Auburn Hills and Joe Louis Arena, both now closed -- Wonder celebrated his seminal 1976 album "Songs in the Key of Life" with epic shows, more than three and a half hours of music accompanied by 42 musicians. The Stevie Wonder Song Party to Tuesday was were more scaled back, from show length (18 songs in two hours and 10 minutes), band size (11 members) and scope. The point of the night was to "celebrate life, love and music" and, as always, marvel at catalog of iconic material Motown's onetime "12-year-old genius," now 68, has amassed during the past five-plus decades.

Save for a pair of deep digs that opened the concert -- "As If You Read My Mind" and "Spiritual Walkers" -- it was night for hits as Wonder, alternating between grand piano and electronic keyboards, conducted a singalong "class" over the course of the show (and had willing participants in a packed house outfitted with wristbands that lit up during various points of the night). Favorites such as "Higher Ground," "All I Do," "My Cherie Amour," "Signed Sealed Delivered" and a pulsing "Living for the City" were as bulletproof as ever, often extended with vamps by Wonder and his musical crew -- which included Detroit natives Nathan Watts on bass, Dwight Adams on trumpet and Keith John (son of the late Little Willie John) on backing vocals.

An early show segue from "If You Really Love Me" into "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing" was silky smooth, while a rich rendition of "Ribbon in the Sky" featured trumpet, saxophone and piano solos, as well as Wonder's only foray on harmonica all night. "Master Blaster (Jammin')" blended into Bob Marley's "Jamming," the slid into a joyous "...Key of Life" pairing of "Sir Duke" and "I Wish." "My Cherie Amour" was so buoyant that even Wonder exulted "that felt good!" at the end of the song.

Engaged as he was, Wonder kept the show surprisingly devoid of references to his old stomping grounds. There was no mention of Motown or even the late Aretha Franklin, who he sang for during her funeral in May. Detroit references were only made to his band members from the city, and Wonder didn't even acknowledge the role Windsor's CKLW played in popularizing his and other Motown music. He also stayed away from politics, though he noted before a cover of John Lennon's "Imagine" -- which he played on his stringed Harpegi -- that "there's so much going on in the world today" and that he was considering moving to Canada or Ghana.

None of that stopped it from being a, well, Wonderful night, right down to the closing vamp of "Superstition." As he was leaving Wonder promised that "we'll come back and do it again," and the Caesars crowd made it clear they'd be up for that, too.

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