Stevie Wonder – 11.17.15 @ John Paul Jones Arena


Music is memory. In the summer of 1977, I was not quite four years of age, but music was already an important part of my life. There was a neighbor who lived two houses down from me. Her name was Tara Simmons, and in 1977, she was probably a teenager or in her early twenties. In my eyes, she was a cool grown up. One of my clearest memories is listening to the album ‘Songs In The Key Of Life’ with her in my living room. Stevie Wonder was so prolific at this point of his career that even a double album wasn’t enough to house all of the songs he deemed worthy of inclusion, so the set included a four song EP that looked like a 45RPM but ran at 33 1/3. The songs included on this EP were “Saturn”/Ebony Eyes” on Side A, and “All Day Sucker/Easy Goin’ (My Mama’s Call)” on Side B.

I am not sure why she did it, but at some point that summer, Tara gave me that EP. It remains a treasured part of my record collection.

When I heard that Stevie Wonder was mounting a tour called ‘Songs in the Key of Life Performance’ I figured a) The tour will come nowhere close to where I live and b) He probably won’t play all of the songs from the set, but just a large amount, and I seriously doubt ‘Ebony Eyes’ or anything from the EP will be included.

Even if option B ended up being true, as soon as the show at John Paul Jones Arena was announced, I knew I was going.

The show I saw and shared with my friend Meg was as if I had sent Stevie my dream set list and, instead of laughing it off, he said ‘Okay, we can do that!’

‘Songs in the Key of Life’ set is a deep, emotional listening experience for me. The first two songs (Love’s In Need of Love today and Have a Talk with God) are not high energy by any means, so the crowd was calm. With the one-two punch of “Sir Duke” and “I Wish,” the crowd was standing, dancing and basking in the glory of witnessing a genius at work, backed by one of the tightest, funkiest bands in existence.

All 21 songs from “Songs…” were played over the four hour show. Some songs that are lengthy in their recorded versions were stretched out further in concert, to allow for audience participation and, at times, just so the band could ride a groove a bit longer (“Isn’t She Lovely”).

Every song was fantastic, but for me, the moment they broke into “Saturn” and followed that up with “Ebony Eyes,” that’s when I knew this was a dream show for fans (like me) who’ve loved this collection for decades.

Hearing those two songs in concert was worth the price of my ticket alone. I can’t really explain the feelings that welled up, and now, days later, I still don’t have the words so I won’t even try.

If you attended this show and didn’t know ‘Songs in the Key of Life’ apart from the songs that still get radio airplay (‘Sir Duke’/’I Wish’ and occasionally ‘As’) then you might not have had the best time. After the band ended side four of the album with an extended version of ‘Another Star,’ Stevie remained on stage and ran through a medley of his hits. As the clock struck midnight, he played truncated versions of ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered’/‘Higher Ground’/’Livin’ For The City’/All I Do/’Master Blaster (Jammin’)’ and closed with two verses and a chorus of ‘Superstition.’

This album has seen me through some tough times throughout my life, so being able to see it performed in its entirety in front of an appreciative audience, I can’t express how much that experience meant. It is something I will never forget.

Like the Brian Wilson show I saw in October, Stevie Wonder in concert is something to behold, and this was a dream show for me.

Special thanks to Meg for sharing this incredible event with me.

Set list (From

Love’s in Need of Love Today

Have a Talk With God

Village Ghetto Land


Sir Duke

I Wish

Knocks Me Off My Feet

The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face

(Background singer solo)


(Background singer solo)

Besame Mucho

(Background singer solo)

At Last

(Background singer solo)

I Love The Lord

(Background singer solo)

Ooh Baby Baby

(Background singer solo)

Ribbon in the Sky (Snippet) / Overjoyed (verse)

Pastime Paradise

Summer Soft

Ordinary Pain


Ebony Eyes

2nd Set

Isn’t She Lovely

Joy Inside My Tears

Black Man

All Day Sucker

Easy Goin’ Evening (My Mama’s Call)

Killer Joe /The Star Spangled Banner

(Harmonica solo)

People Get Ready

Ngiculela – Es Una Historia – I Am Singing

If It’s Magic


Another Star


Do I Do /All I Do/ Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours / Livin’ for the City / Higher Ground / Master Blaster (Jammin’)