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Concert Review: Stevie Wonder Montreal Jazz Fest


Ian Benhamou

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So it's 3am, just got back from one hell of a magic night. First, some background.

 

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Le Festival International de Jazz de Montreal, so they wanted to make it big. They have a new site for the outdoor concerts and they got Stevie Wonder to baptize the new main stage by kicking off the festival with a free outdoor concert.

 

I took the metro down with a muso buddy, got there at 5pm (show was scheduled for 9:30) and caught Stevie on-stage by himself doing some kind of vocal/piano warm-up as a sound check. Luckily there were only about 1000 people at this point, so we were able to get about 100 feet directly in front of the stage. Stevie finished his thing, walked off stage to roaring applause and so began the waiting. Five hours under the sun, while the crowd was growing behind us.

 

A dj was set up on-stage and soon began spinning some deep old school r&b/soul/funk jams. It was the perfect stuff to be listening to and really helped the time fly by. The highlight came when he broke out The Girl Is Mine by Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney and the crowd went nuts. He then went into Rock With You and a bunch of circles formed in the packed crowd while people starting dancing. I gotta say, the vibe was already amazing.

 

At 8:30 on the nose it started raining, out came the umbrellas and the tarp to cover up all the gear on stage. But at 9:30, the rain let up, the tarps came off, and out came Stevie accompanied by his daughter at about 10pm. He started by giving an emotional speech about Michael Jackson, and basically telling people to celebrate his life by keeping his music alive and continuing to buy his record instead of getting caught up in all the media tabloids and pseudo-biographies. And he also added that anybody who has a problem with that could blow him! I thought that was amazing on his part and really unexpected from Stevie. The crowd cheered, and so the show started.

 

He kicked it off with none other that I Can't Help It from Off The Wall which he wrote for MJ. He also did a few jazz tunes namely, All Blues with a kick ass harmonica solo, Spain where every player got a 16 bar blow, and few other standards that I don't know the titles of.

 

Highlights for me was his early Motown hits: My Cherie Amour, Uptight, For Once In My Life and Signed, Sealed, Delivered. Master Blaster and Higher Ground rocked the house, and Superstition was soooooo kick ass it had 150 000 people jumping up and down and screaming. He also did Knock Me Off My Feet and Overjoyed beautifully, and his voice was in top form.

 

At the end he let a CD play a medley of Michael Jackson's hits while the band just danced at the front of the stage and everyone in the crowd was dancing and singing along. What a moment! Stevie even attempted a Moonwalk while Billie Jean played and it was fucking hilarious! A particularly poignant moment was when Man In The Mirror came on and Stevie started crying. I couldn't help but get emotional as well to know that he's really gone.

 

All n All, and incredible night, lots of great music, over 100 000 people united with no acts of violence or rioting. An historic night to remember.

Ian Benhamou

Keyboards/Guitar/Vocals

 

[url:https://www.facebook.com/OfficialTheMusicalBox/]The Musical Box[/url]

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Glad you got to see my favorite artist of all time live and in person. The closest I've got was the "Live at Last" concert that I caught on TV a few weeks ago. Of course I DVRed it and have watched it a few times since then. That show opened with "All Blues," much to my delight. Actually, being somewhat of a jazz newb, I was just introduced to "Kind of Blue" a few months ago. I picked it up since it was in pretty much everybody's top five jazz albums of all time, if not #1. So to hear Stevie open up his show with it was not only a pleasant surprise, but also re-confirmed the importance of that record to a jazz novice like myself. I mean, Stevie's catalog is seemingly endless, so that album and/or song must have had a pretty big impact on him for him to open his show with it.

--Sean H.

 

Yamaha MOXF8, Korg TR76, Novation X-Station 61, Casio PX-320

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Ian, when I first started reading your post, I was thinking that there's no way I'd stand around waiting for five hours even it it is Stevie.

 

Then you got to the description of the concert itself...Man I love that guy. It would've been worth the wait.

 

Did you see his concert at the White House a couple of months ago? A bunch of other artists and Stevie doing his music. Excellent.

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Ian, when I first started reading your post, I was thinking that there's no way I'd stand around waiting for five hours even it it is Stevie.

 

Then you got to the description of the concert itself...Man I love that guy. It would've been worth the wait.

 

Did you see his concert at the White House a couple of months ago? A bunch of other artists and Stevie doing his music. Excellent.

 

Oh, it was definitely worth the wait and the enormous pressure on my bladder. I had seen him live a year and a half ago and it was probably the best show I'd ever been to and I've seen Paul MCartney, Elton John, Billy Joel, Pink Floyd, Page & Plant, The Eagles. Nothing touched Stevie in terms of creating a magical evening. So I knew it was going to be amazing. Plus with MJ's passing I knew it was going to be extra special.

 

I haven't seen his White House performance. Are there any videos on the net to check out?

Ian Benhamou

Keyboards/Guitar/Vocals

 

[url:https://www.facebook.com/OfficialTheMusicalBox/]The Musical Box[/url]

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Here's a few clips I found of last night.

 

First, The Michael Jackson speech:

 

 

First song, I Can't Help It from Off The Wall:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8rtcrosRuY0&NR=1

 

Stevie and the band rockin' Downtown Montreal. Check out the site man!

 

 

A view from how far back the crowd went:

 

 

And last but not least, the end with Stevie's tribute to Michael. The enrgy in the crowd was pure magic. It's amazing the rain let up just before showtime, and the sky started crying for Michael just as the end came. Couldn't have been more magical.

 

 

 

Ian Benhamou

Keyboards/Guitar/Vocals

 

[url:https://www.facebook.com/OfficialTheMusicalBox/]The Musical Box[/url]

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Ian, when I first started reading your post, I was thinking that there's no way I'd stand around waiting for five hours even it it is Stevie.

 

Then you got to the description of the concert itself...Man I love that guy. It would've been worth the wait.

 

Did you see his concert at the White House a couple of months ago? A bunch of other artists and Stevie doing his music. Excellent.

 

Oh, it was definitely worth the wait and the enormous pressure on my bladder. I had seen him live a year and a half ago and it was probably the best show I'd ever been to and I've seen Paul MCartney, Elton John, Billy Joel, Pink Floyd, Page & Plant, The Eagles. Nothing touched Stevie in terms of creating a magical evening. So I knew it was going to be amazing. Plus with MJ's passing I knew it was going to be extra special.

 

I haven't seen his White House performance. Are there any videos on the net to check out?

 

Here's a little bit of it:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9MbJ7FFZvM

 

I don't know if the whole thing is available anymore or not.

 

 

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Hey thanks for sharing, Ian. Truly sounds like a special evening....with therapeutic/cathartic properties for many, perhaps even Stevie. Its especially magical when the emotional experience of the performer and audience become a collective entity. Sounds like it was one of those "once in a lifetime events for you; glad to hear it helped with remembering/celebrating MJ and the influence he had on your life.

"We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing."

- George Bernard Shaw

 

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