Stevie Wonder Wembley Arena 6th September 1980
There was a massive buzz around Stevie Wonder’s first performances in Britain since 1974. Tickets for the six night “Hotter Than July Music Picnic” run of concerts at Wembley Arena were sold by postal application, and were massively over-subscribed. We were lucky enough to score tickets in the fourth row of the front block, giving us a great view of Wonder and his band.
The stars turned out in force for the show. As we took our seats we noticed Kate Bush sitting two rows behind us with a group of friends. We also noticed Goodie Bill Oddie in the front row.
Stevie began the first set with a run through some of his ’60s hits, starting with “For Once In My Life”. From a NME review of the time, written by Paul Du Noyer: “…there’s Stevie Wonder up there, the best soul voice this side of Smokey and he’s giving us ‘My Cherie Amour’ and ‘Signed Sealed Delivered’ and ‘If You Really Love Me’ and, oh, you really should have been there because it was a tremendous thing to hear.”
The show was in two sections, full of classic Motown, most of the “Innervisions” album, and those tremendous Wonder songs like “Living for the City” and “Higher Ground”. There were moments where it really just couldn’t have been any better, and others where Wonder got the crowd to singalong to the songs, almost spoiling them. “…those hoary old call-and-response sequences: ‘Now I want all you fellas to sing this part… and the ladies sing this part…’…..just a pointless pantomime” (Paul Du Noyer, NNME).
After the interval Wonder re-appeared as the young “Little Stevie Wonder”, dressed in a cute red velvet suit and bow-tie and proceeded to play an amazing version of “Fingertips”; complete with note-perfect mouth harp. Then it was back to classics: “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life” and an amazing “Superstition” which stunned everyone. The new songs of the evening were “Happy Birthday” in honour of Martin Luther King, and the single “Masterblaster” (more singalong, but still great). A breath-taking performance.
The following evening, which was last of the six night run, just before the very last song Stevie said “I’d like to bring on a couple of guests” and on walked Marvin Gaye and Diana Ross to sing along with him. Now I wish I’d been there that night.
Setlist. Set 1. For Once In My Life; My Cherie Amour; Signed Sealed Delivered; If You Really Love Me; Golden Lady; Boogie On Reggae Woman; Living For The City; Higher Ground; Don’t You Worry ’bout a Thing.
Set 2. Fingertips; Sir Duke; You Are The Sunshine Of My Life; Superstition; Visions; You and I; Secret Life Of Plants; Happy Birthday; Masterblaster Jammin’ ; Did I Hear You Say You Love Me