At the outset of Sunday night’s show at Concord’s Sleep Train Pavilion, Stevie Wonder introduced his lovely daughter (and backup singer) Aisha Morris, telling the hyped-up audience that spreading joy, to honor a request by his late mother, was primary among his reasons for returning to the concert stage for the first time in a decade.
In the third gig of his "Wonder Summer’s Night" tour, Wonder, who’s scheduled appear Sept. 4 in a sold-out show at the Mountain Winery in Saratoga, fulfilled that promise — and then some.
Opening with a hello to Berkeley in particular ("What’s up Beserkeley?!"), the iconic Motown artist launched into a two-plus hour set packed with major songs from his catalog, among the shiniest, broadest and deepest in all of pop music. In reviewing the excellent set list after the show, only then could one realize that he didn’t do just as many great tunes; he’s got dozens.
Backed by a band high on percussion, keyboards, guitar and vocals, the 57-year-old Wonder, in excellent voice and sitting behind a keyboard and grand piano, concentrated on 1973’s acclaimed "Innervisions" and dug into the 1976 masterpiece"Songs in the Key Life."
One great tune followed the next; the ballads were well paced with the excellent mid-tempo love songs and more funky jams. He radiated positive vibes, starting off with "Love’s in Need of Love Today," before moving to "Too High" and "Vision." He (and the audience) got down with "Living for the City," "Master Blaster" and "Higher Ground."
The slightly lesser-known "Golden Lady" got a great treatment; Wonder took his vocals up a notch and "Ribbon in the Sky" and the emotional "You and I." He sang the smooth ’80s-era "Overjoyed," then mentioned that the nasty "good for the throat" brew he was drinking contained apple cider, vinegar and honey.
He pumped up the volume again with "Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing," the early "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" (both the way it was recorded and a new country version), and "Boogie On Reggae Woman.
His failed childhood romantic attempt with a girl named Marcia, he said, led to the great "My Cherie Amour." He went on to "All I Do" from the "Hotter Than July" album before the megahits "Sir Duke," "I Wish," "Isn’t She Lovely" (Aisha, its subject, sat next to him), "You Are the Sunshine of My Life" and "Superstitious."
He introduced the band to "Do I Do," then bounced into "Part Time Love" featuring an only partly successful audience sing-along with the men and woman taking different parts. After "So What’s the Fuss" he ended with "Another Star."
He bade the crowd farewell with spoken words almost as inspiring as his universal songs: "I truly believe that we were born free; we have the ability to choose and make decisions. We can use our time to love … love unselfishly." Happily, Wonder’s evening of magical music was a physical embodiment of just that.