ACL Reviews, Photos: Stevie Wonder, Saturday, Bud Light
It’s probably fair to say that Stevie Wonder’s Saturday night set was one of the most anticipated events of this year’s ACL Fest, and the size of the crowd there to see him underscored that point. So it’s curious that Wonder’s sound levels were seemingly half as loud as the other acts . For the considerable number of people farther back in the crowd, he was almost inaudible with My Morning Jacket blasting away across Zilker park. Chants of “Turn it up!” were ignored. When Wonder picked up on them onstage, he asked if everyone could hear all right, and the resounding “No!” from the back half of the crowd still changed nothing.
Even so, for those lucky enough to be up front, the sound was fine, and Wonder and superb band were magnificent. Opening with the Holland-Dozier-Holland chestnut “How Sweet It Is”, Wonder quickly got down to business on his inexhaustible supply of his own classics – “Higher Ground”, “Cherie Amour”, “Master Blaster”, “I Just Called to Say I Love You”, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered”. Just when you’d think he’d run through everything, he’d bring out another song so well known that most of the crowd was singing along.
For an act that doesn’t tour much, Wonder’s band was remarkably adept, navigating Wonder’s strange chord structures and key changes with ease, stretching out when Wonder led the crowd in chants, adapting when he strayed from the set list.
Wonder himself navigated the stage with ease, moving from standing to his keyboards without hesitation. His voice and onstage energy seemed undiminished by age. He kept focused on his considerable strengths; the drippy sentimentality of some of his album tracks to a minimum, and his over-earnest preaching didn’t surface until late into the long set, on the back half of an otherwise hair-raising “Superstition”.