ACL Last Night: The One, The Only, Stevie Wonder

stevie_wonder e.jpg
Photos by Marco Torres
Check out all of our coverage from ACL 2011, including our hottest crowd shots and our slideshow from Saturday with Stevie Wonder and Alison Krauss.

Stevie Wonder
Austin City Limits Music Festival
Bud Light Stage, Zilker Park, Austin
September 17, 2011

Stevie Wonder says we're all part of the same family. Saturday night at Austin City Limits, he had about 45,000 (we're guessing) Jesus children of America in the palms of his well-exercised hands. However many people it was, Wonder's audience took up the radia of the Google+ stage hundreds of yards away, as well as the hordes closer into his own Bud Light Stage.

Wonder came onstage gradually, stealthily emerging with a keytar as his band - which was a small orchestra, really - warmed up and then worked over a cheerful vamp that was part funk lick, part nursery rhyme, and eventually resolved into Wonder's old Motown pal Marvin Gaye's "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)."

One of the most gifted musicians on the planet left little doubt that he was mostly making it up as he went along. "What's the second verse?" he wondered out loud in the opener, asked "What key was that in?" after "Jammin' (Master Blaster)" a couple of songs later, and confessed "I don't know all the words, but we'll work it out" before a cover of Michael Jackson's "The Way You Make Me Feel" that would have given Quincy Jones goosebumps.

stevie_wonder sept17 b.jpg
Stevie was into it. By the second song, "My Eyes Don't Cry," he was prone on the stage, humping - for lack of a better word - his instrument. Eventually he sat down and became conductor of the great funk symphony that took up the first part of the set, each song a different movement showcasing a different part of the orchestra: Congas and timbales on "My Eyes," guitars on "The Way You Make Me Feel," the horns and four-piece backup vocal crew on "Higher Ground."

He's also a talkative dude, and very fond of leading mass singalongs like the world's coolest choir director. In their fifth, sixth or seventh minute, many songs spiraled into Wonder either telling the crowd what was on his mind - lots of talk about how we're all in this together, and need to act like it, or how Barack Obama needs a break from all the "bullshit" he's been dealing with. Or he'd introduce something like "Living for the City" with "I never want to have to write this song again."

Other times Wonder would urge the audience to join in the lyrics, take over, or back him up. Most of the time, they didn't need much prompting. The expressions Rocks Off saw during the Jackson cover, when we were relatively close up front, near the soundboard, were about the nearest to pure joy we've ever seen (and felt) at any musical performance, anywhere.

It did seem to falter once, during "Do I Do," but once Wonder seemed to realize it, he steered the band into "For Once In My Life," breaking out the sweet harmonica for the first time, and everyone was all smiles again.

My Voice Nation Help
9 comments
Sort: Newest | Oldest
TyraMcCauley
TyraMcCauley

I just got a $829.99 iPad2 for only $104.48 and my mom got a $1500.00 HDTV for only $262.89, they are both coming with USPS tomorrow. I would be an idiot to ever pay full retail prices at places like Walmart or Bestbuy. I sold a 37" HDTV to my boss for $600 that I only paid $78.24 for. I use BidsFresh

Andy Aupperle
Andy Aupperle

You realy should mention how poor the sound quality was for the show.  I was standing by the Google+ stage and could bearly hear the show.  Lots of people left early because they couldn't hear anything over the My Morning Jacket set.  I am hugely disappointed with ACL sound techs.

TyraMcCauley
TyraMcCauley

I just got a $829.99 iPad2 for only $104.48 and my mom got a $1500.00 HDTV for only $262.89, they are both coming with USPS tomorrow. I would be an idiot to ever pay full retail prices at places like Walmart or Bestbuy. I sold a 37" HDTV to my boss for $600 that I only paid $78.24 for. I use BidsFresh

Bonniemartz
Bonniemartz

My group was half way up to the stage Stevie was singing on and we could not hear.  Despite the larger group yelling " Turn it up, Turn it up....!!!!"  We left early with alot of other people disappointed with the sound level.  WOW ACL really!!???

rocksoffsr
rocksoffsr

You're talking about probably a quarter of a mile - it's a lot to ask of any sound system to be audible over that kind of distance. I was around the Google+ stage for the latter part of the set and yes, it was distant, but I didn't have much trouble understanding the words or hearing the music. There were plenty of people dancing and singing back there who seemed to be able to hear just fine.

rocksoffsr
rocksoffsr

Maybe they just had better gear.

tee-wee
tee-wee

Yeah, but the distance doesn't hold water considering we were further from MMJ on the AMD stage and could hear them much, much louder.

rocksoffsr
rocksoffsr

Also, the amount of ambient crowd chatter went up the further back from the stage I went. That makes a difference too.

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Houston Event Tickets
Loading...