July 23, 2001
Stevie Wonder : Detroit Hart Plaza
In celebration of Detroit's 300th birthday, Stevie Wonder runs through all the hits...
Leave it to Stevie Wonder to jump back into the groove without missing a beat. Tonight's performance is his first in nearly ten years in the Motor City and it's a rather auspicious occasion - Detroit's 300th birthday. A crowd of over one million people (more than the city's actual population) has gathered for the event that also features appearances by updated incarnations of Motown stars the Detroit Spinners and the Temptations.
After an emotional introduction by fellow Detroit native David Alan Grier, Wonder takes the stage to rousing applause. Just his presence is a genuinely magical moment for the city.
Leading off with 'Master Blaster (Jammin')' and stepping right into 'If You Really Love Me' and 'Higher Ground', Wonder woos his hometown crowd with a few upbeat favourites despite some much needed vocal tweaking. Once the sound problems subside Wonder sets the nostalgic crowd aflame with a number of down-tempo lovey-dovey bits, inviting his ex-wife and back-up singer Syreeta Wright onstage for a little late night sap. He opts for the slower ballads and many members of the tired crowd disperse during the lull. (Note
to free public concert promoters: start earlier).
Those that leave miss a heartfelt and teary-eyed thank you from Wonder just before he launches into another hour of hits. The next set sees him banging the heck out of his Fender Rhodes, delivering Superstition', 'Signed, Sealed, Delivered', 'I Wish', and 'Sir Duke' with stunning emotion and energy. Included in the set is an all-star rendition of 'Dancing In The Streets' that features many of the evening's performers. Interestingly, no mention is made of Martha Reeves (who popularised the song with the Vandellas) as she sits anonymously in the crowd.
Two hours after taking front-and-center, Wonder punctuates the show with a crowd-pleasing 'Happy Birthday' that continues on into the night - an unbelievable ending for a city that's seen it all.
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