With social distancing putting a hold on live events, I am talking a walk down memory lane to reflect on the 10 most memorable concerts I have seen. This is not a list of the ten best shows, but rather the ones that have left the most indelible memories.
Concerts are the act of artists sharing their music with fans. Arena shows rarely feel like a personal gift from the performer to the audience, especially from the nose bleed seats. In November of 2014, Stevie Wonder turned in an all-time encore at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center that felt like a present from the Motown legend.
Philadelphia was on the first leg of the Songs In The Key Of Life Tour, a series of shows that ran through his seminal 1976 double album. Stevie Wonder’s huge backing band (including India Arie) brought the massive album to life in spectacular fashion.
The Sunday night show began ominously for much of the audience. A late afternoon Eagles game in Green Bay and a lack of police presence outside the arena created an ill-timed traffic jam that kept much of the audience running late. Even though I’m notoriously too early for everything, I walked inside the Wells Fargo Center five songs into Songs In The Key Of Life.
The horns on “Sir Duke” faded as I rode up the escalator, but the beauty of catching a double album live is an abundance of material. Songs like “Summer Soft,” “Isn’t She Lovely,” and “Joy Inside My Tears” were the powerful live experiences you would expect.
After Songs In The Key Of Life concluded, Wonder and his touring band gave a genuinely wonderful end to the show. Encores are typically the ramped-up part of a concert. After performing one of the greatest albums of all-time live, it was hard to accelerate the show even more. This group of songs was different than your typical show-enders.
The medley began with “Do I Do,” “Master Blaster (Jammin’),” and “For Once In My Life.” After settling behind a keyboard, he played a couple of notes that launched a massive singalong for the opening of “My Cherie Amour.”
It was like Stevie Wonder had taken a break from a concert to bust open his personal jukebox. The audience fed off the pure joy he exuded as “DJ Tick Tick Boom.” Sure, it was a corny nickname, but it was an endearing moment that kept a packed arena in the palm of his hand.
DJ Tick Tick Boom’s encore came to a conclusion with “I Just Called To Say I Love You.” As if that was not enough, the band launched into a full version of “Superstition” that blew the roof off the South Philadelphia venue. In a night of bests, it was the 27th song (or partial song) that Stevie Wonder dropped that night and he saved his most personal moments for the end of the show.