Stevie Wonder

Live at Last: A Wonder Summer's Night

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AllMusic Review by

The clichéd title is bland but true. This is one of the only officially approved Stevie Wonder full-length concerts released since he started performing as the "12-year-old genius" in the early '60s. And while there is no "Fingertips, Pt. 2" or "Uptight (Everything's Alright)" in the expansive set list, there's plenty more. Almost 30 songs, some quite abbreviated, in this mostly rousing two-hour-and-15-minute performance, recorded live in 2008 at London's O2 arena. Most of what fans would expect is present and accounted for, but there are some surprises, too. Wonder kicks off the show with a credible version of Miles Davies' "All Blues" that begins with just his harmonica and gradually adds instruments from his ten-piece backing band. While some may criticize Wonder for including a nearly ten-minute jazz jam on Chick Corea's signature "Spain" where all the players take solos instead of more originals, the concert is a well-rounded show that displays the talents of its star, along with those of his capable musicians and four backup singers. One of the latter is daughter Aisha Morris who takes the spotlight for classy if momentum-slowing solo turn on Cy Coleman's jazz classic "I'm Gonna Laugh You Right Out of My Life." The large (some might say overly so) backing group (three percussionists, two keyboardists in addition to Wonder, and two guitars) keeps the sound full, if overly slick. But Wonder is in terrific voice and in a particularly jovial mood, too, joking with the musicians and chatting, sometimes awkwardly, with the audience. It's a thoroughly enjoyable, feel-good, professional show, marred somewhat by a ."U.K Medley" that has Wonder tackling some abbreviated Stones and Beatles hits, more like choruses, while distorting his voice through that abrasive '70s vocoder that Peter Frampton and Joe Walsh had such success with. It's a dated sound and the segment extends far too long, which will likely prompt most to hit the DVD's track-forward button after suffering through it once. Otherwise, this is a solid concert, beautifully shot in high definition and immaculately recorded in booming surround audio. Wonder whizzes through edits of some big hits towards the end of the gig, pumping out approximately two-minute versions of "Sir Duke," "I Wish," "Isn't She Lovely," and most frustratingly "You Are the Sunshine of My Life" before closing with fuller, extended takes of "Superstition" and "As." If you missed the tour, this is as close as you're likely to come to being there. More edits might have created a tighter production, but most Stevie Wonder enthusiasts will be thrilled to add this to their collection of one of music's most gifted songwriters and performers.

Track Listing

Title/Composer Performer Time
1
2
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5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
feat: Aisha Morris
21
22
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24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
blue highlight denotes track pick