Monday, June 29, 2009

Stevie Wonder's Michael Jackson Tribute - Summerfest

Stevie Wonder and John Legend were Sunday's Summerfest headliners at the Marcus Ampitheater.

Dave Tianen reviewed the show. From his account, it was a rather bizarre performance, becoming a tribute to Michael Jackson, at times highly emotional.

Tianen writes:

One thing can be said with utter confidence. Summerfest will not witness another concert like Stevie Wonder's performance Sunday at the Marcus Amphitheater for a very long time.

It was an evening filled with genuine emotion. It was also spontaneous, unpredictable, confusing, a bit sloppy, loving - and for a few moments, quite alarming.

Wonder essentially turned his concert into a tribute to Michael Jackson. He opened his set with a little speech telling people to celebrate the joy and magic in Michael's music and ignore all the gossip and scandal.

At one point, he brought opening act John Legend on stage to join him on a duet of "Get It," one of Wonder's songs that Jackson had recorded. When they were finished, they played a tape of Jackson's hit "The Way You Make Me Feel."

Suddenly, Wonder slumped over at his keyboard. It was hard to tell what was happening. Was he ill? Was he sobbing? Even the band seemed confused and unsure of what to do.

After some long moments, Wonder's daughter Aisha Morris came over and appeared to comfort him. It seemed as though the concert might be over.

But then Wonder rallied and plunged into a rhythm number without explaining exactly what had happened.

Perhaps 20 minutes and several songs later, he stopped and told the audience: "I am not ashamed to express my heart. Don't be afraid to express your heart."

How creepy! That's really disturbing.

Wonder slumping over at the keyboard is not a scene I would have wanted to witness. I think that would have been frightening. I would have been tempted to call 911.

It appears that Wonder is really grieving and having difficulty going ahead with his concert schedule.

The show must go on, but not if Wonder is incapable of delivering the sort of show that concertgoers put out good money to see.

He then brought Legend on again to join in a new song he had just written and planned to donate to the Jackson family. The title, apparently "In the Arms of God," is a celebration that Michael is now at peace.

From there, the set segued somewhat awkwardly into a medley of greatest hits such as "My Cherie Amour," "Uptight," "For Once in My Life" and "Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Yours." When the set list got to "Superstition," Wonder changed the chorus to lead a sing-along of "We love you, Michael, We'll see you in heaven."

Critically, what can you say about a performance like that? Anyone who witnesses Wonder for even a little while realizes he is a truly sweet, tender-hearted man. He is also sometimes seems almost childlike in his naiveté. Without in any way minimizing the tragedy or sadness of Jackson's life and death, there were troubling aspects to his life that go beyond gossip-mongering.

Tianen doesn't say how the audience responded to all this mourning and preaching.

If people were caught up in Wonder's emotion, it could have all been very moving. If they were hoping for more of an upbeat concert, they must have been disappointed.

It is naive for Wonder to tell people to ignore "all the gossip and scandal" in Jackson's life.

The child molestation charges weren't gossip. That's the unfortunate reality. Asking people to focus on Jackson's talent and his musical contributions is fair. Telling them to ignore the dark stuff is unrealistic. In effect, he's asking them to buy into a lie.

I understand that Wonder must really be hurting and he was honest about it. But he's a professional entertainer. If concertgoers were unhappy with the show, I think that would be a legitimate reaction. At least according to Tianen's review, Michael Jackson and grief took center stage last night rather than Stevie Wonder.

If I had to choose, I suppose I'd prefer a Michael Jackson tribute to Wonder spending the evening singing the praises of Obama and making political speeches.

In any event, whatever one's reaction, it sounds like it was an unforgettable concert.


More, from TMJ4:
Stevie Wonder talked about how much he missed his friend during his concert at Milwaukee's Summerfest, the world's largest music festival.

"I'm just so sad to know that he was never able to live to be old and gray," said Wonder on stage during his show at the Marcus Ampitheater.

"I have peace in knowing that a man with the spirit of Michael Jackson is safe now in the arms of his God."



Nicole said...

This was my first Stevie Wonder concert, and while yes I wish there was more focus on Stevie's music (vs MJ), we have to remember that Stevie and MJ were friends, and just the fact that Stevie went on stage at all had to be extremely difficult. Would I have wanted Stevie to cancel for a later way!! He needed to do his concert his way to help him move through his grief. Stevie Wonder's music is timeless and a joy to listen to whatever the situation!! Thank you Stevie for giving us your heart last night in Milwaukee!! Dana from Muskego

Mary said...

I'm glad you enjoyed the concert.

Wonder does deserve credit for not cancelling the show. That would have been a major disappointment for his fans.

And it would have been inappropriate for Wonder to act as if things were business as usual for him. Obviously, he's been deeply shaken by Michael Jackson's passing.

Did most people seem to be satisfied with the direction that Wonder took the show?

I'd be interested to know how the crowd reacted.

Anonymous said...

wow, the review you used as your ONLY source was pretty flawed. i won't even bother to break it down, but i will say that their observations were haphazard and exaggerated in almost every way. nothing was sloppy, and nothing was confusing, unless you are one to be easily confused. are you trying to create controversy where there is none?

Anonymous said...

I was at the concert and I am very happy that I was. This was the most amazing and touching concert I have ever been to in my life. This is exactly why Stevie Wonder is my idol, he is a very "Real" person and he is not afraid to express his joy and sadness with the crowd. Listening to the crowd cheer him on and cheer for Michael Jackson brought tears to my own eyes. This will forever be the greatest concert I've gone to.

Mary said...

"are you trying to create controversy where there is none?"

Absolutely not. I'm merely commenting on Dave Tianen's review.

In my original post, I wrote:

"Tianen doesn't say how the audience responded to all this mourning and preaching.

"If people were caught up in Wonder's emotion, it could have all been very moving."

There's no controversy here.

I've read reviews from concerts I've attended and the reviews often don't reflect my experience.

Mary said...

Thanks for sharing your reaction to the concert, Stephanie.

Bekah said...

This was my 3rd Stevie concert and it was the most amazing yet. What an unforgetable spiritual experience. Stevie poured his heart out and showed what a wonderful caring man he truly is. I feel blessed to have been a part of this Michael Jackson tribute.

DJ Cam'rox said...

How can you possibly say that Michael's child molestation charges are "unfortunate reality" when he was found NOT GUILTY on ALL TEN counts during his trial?? Just because YOU may believe it to be true, DOES NOT make it a "reality". The only "reality" here is that it's your non-factual OPINION.

Mary said...

Calm down.

I said the child molestation CHARGES are an unfortunate reality.