I didn't take any notes, I didn't think about how I'd review it during the gig, and it's now 8 days later... nevertheless I'd like to get a few things down about the Stevie Wonder gig I attended last week in London, other than the post I made before - probably for my own benefit more than anyone else's...
I've been telling people all week, when they've asked me "how was Stevie?", about the shitty crowd. And it's true, but why aren't I answering the question? Perhaps my expectations were too high ("...too high, too high, and I ain't ever coming down"), but I left feeling more satisfied than excited.
Part of this was because of the crowd - which, I forgot to mention, also showed its apathy by barely responding to Stevie's repeated attempts at crowd interaction. Partly it was because I was three rows from the back of a humungous big soulless stadium and watched most of the gig on the big screens. But partly, it was because Stevie wasn't as good as he could've been.
Everyone knows - and Stevie's 70s legacy is often even overshadowed by - that in the 80s, he really took a nosedive, exemplified (but not limited to) "I Just Called to Say I Love You" (which he played, second last). Well he played a few other ballads from that period which have nothing on several he omitted. Like every funk band is obliged to do (but every rock band is obliged not to do, huh) everyone had a moment in the spotlight to do a solo - but of 15 other performers on stage, about a dozen solos of 32 bars each takes a long time! And finally, he oversang a lot. I'll qualify that - near the beginning he did a segment where he was teaching the crowd to singalong, and progressively made it more complicated to see how long the crowd stayed with him, until he sang a ludicrously long and complex line and everyone burst out laughing and cheering. Great - we all know you've got a fabulous voice Stevie, and it's still there at 58. But then... it was like he was attempting to repeat that himself in songs, continuing to show off, mangling the melody we actually want to hear. The first time was impressive, the fifth time was not. I remember thinking - if this was a guitar solo, I'd be mocking it with a hand gesture.
During "Signed, Sealed, Delivered", Stevie started barking "Joss Stone! Joss Stone! Where is Joss Stone!?". I thought (hoped) he'd gone mad, but sure enough a leggy blonde in a wee black slip ran on from backstage, pins flailing about all over the place, and sat beside him at the piano. It was the worst guest appearance I've ever seen. She wailed - "ooh ahh! waah! oooh-oooh-wah-wah" etc - for about 30 seconds - OK mibbe a minute at most - and then ran backstage again, feet swinging wildly.
So anyway... I was probably a bit disappointed with the gig. There, I said it. I loved "My Cherie Amour", and "Living For The City", and "I Wish", and "Master Blaster (Jammin')", and "Superstition" at the end (which I can't really listen to anymore because I know it so well, but live it sounded like the greatest pop song ever written (which it is - either that or "I Was Made To Love Her", which he didn't play)); but a combination of factors - the crowd, the venue, and the performance - meant it was never going to match my expectations.
Stevie is one of my all-time heroes so I suppose I thought the gig would be one of my all-time greatest, and it just wasn't. I feel sad even writing this post! The satisfied feeling I had at the end was partly related to, like, having ticked that box, or something, which I don't want to be saying but I think is true. Looking back on it, I can't divorce my prior expectations of what it could have been from what it actually was, to appreciate that there was in fact loads of parts I loved, and therefore enjoy and be enthused by the memory. I wish I could.