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Stevie Wonder Wows at Outside Lands

To call Stevie Wonder a legend would almost be doing the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer an injustice.

Would music god suffice?  Well, those that doubted might have been convinced with Wonder’s incredible 130-minute set Sunday night at San Francisco’s Outside Lands music festival.

Wonder came out with a keytar strapped to his body and began playing the opening notes to “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)” which was originally recorded by R&B idol Marvin Gaye in 1965.

From there, Wonder put on a show that had something for everyone, even while keeping the high-energy party going.

Wonder did make a few political remarks, such as his endorsement of President Barack Obama, and he was eager to keep faith in the forefront, too, changing the lyrics from “How Sweet It Is” from “I just want to stop and thank you, baby” to “I just want to stop and thank you, Father.”

But the main message was acceptance and love.  Wonder made it a point of expressing those sentiments several times throughout the Lands End stage concert.

The singer/songwriter was a true showman, taking the packed outdoor audience on a thrill ride through his career, noting that “This is the School of Wonder,” in the face of a thunderous applause.

It must be tough for Wonder when he attempts to come up with a playlist.

After all, he’s won 22 Grammy Awards and has the moxie to take on difficult songs to cover in his live show.

In that vein, Wonder offered his take on Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel” and “Imagine” by John Lennon. The latter was brief, with Wonder getting choked up when trying to sing “some day I’ll join you.”  But the Michael Jackson cover was a pure celebration with Wonder heading over to get his groove on with each of his backup singers.

Those moments were definite highlights of yet another end to a diverse and funk-a-fied set filled with emotion that Wonder could throw a match on at any time.

Three songs in, Wonder was incredible on “Higher Ground,” from his 1973 album Innervision.  The upbeat, punk-influenced tune, which was covered by the Red Hot Chili Peppers in the early 1990’s, was reportedly recorded in a burst of inspiration in about three hours.

Following the Lennon tribute six songs in, the band unleashed a relentless attack on the heartstrings of both new and longtime Wonder fans. The Lands End stage was packed to the brim with concert-goers of all ages who were ready to see one of the forefathers of  up close and personal.

Wonder was extremely accommodating, laying out those songs that are impossibly to stop humming after being heard.

That included “Don’t You Worry ‘bout A Thing,” “My Cherie Amor” and “I Just Called to Say I Love You” fitting the bill.

The tender “I Just Called to Say I Love You” brought out a lot of lip-locks, while a  dance party broke out  during the ubiquitous “Superstition.”

And when it was time to close up shop, Wonder slowed it down with a heartfelt version of the Temptations’ “My Girl.”

Over 100 bands performed throughout the Outside Lands festival weekend, but Stevie Wonder’s diverse performance marked a beautiful and uplifting end to the festival.

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