Stevie Wonder showed just how wonderful and amazing he is last night. He hosted a three hour all star birthday bash for the United Nations on UN Day in the Great Assembly Hall. Even though Stevie returned to the hall a little late after two days of rehearsal, he still managed to put on a marathon, blow-out concert with guest stars like Sting, Wyclef Jean, Valerie Simpson, Bebe Winans, Doug E. Fresh, Janelle Monae, Freddie Jackson and Stephanie Mills. Trudie Styler, Malcolm Jamal Warner and BET’s Debra Lee punctuated the music with quotes from famous humanitarians.
(Paul Simon, who was scheduled to perform, had to bow out because of illness.)
The show won’t be seen on BET until February 23, 2012. But smart viewers were able to watch it on the BET website as it streamed live and unedited.
Some highlights include Stevie and Sting’s duet on “Fragile” complete with Sting’s intricate guitar work and Stevie’s harmonica rave up; Wyclef–who had to fly to Nashville to shoot the TV show of the same name–collaborating with Stevie on “Master Blaster Jamming”; Simpson sort of making the finale a success with her trademark song, “Reach Out and Touch”; and Stephanie Mills just roaring away with powerful vocals on a number of Stevie’s songs. Stevie’s back up singers included his talented daughter, Aisha Morris.
Wonder himself was a wonder since he didn’t leave the show once during the three hours. He was propelled by adrenaline. BET will have to cut something from what was recorded, but it will hurt to lose one bit of it. Wonder’s rare performance of “Visions” from “Innervisions” was a special treat. Among his famous songs we heard “You Are the Sunshine of My Life,” “Superstition,” “Higher Ground,” “Love’s in Need of Love Today,” “If It’s Magic,” “As,” “My Cherie Amour,” and “Heaven Help Us All.”
With ever rising star Estelle he performed a gorgeous, spare duet on Bob Dylan’s “Blowing in the Wind.” There were also terrific turns by Jasmine Cruz, Elle Varner, and the Wonder Girls, who flew in from South Korea to sing “What the World Needs Now is Love” with Stevie–it’s one of the two songs they know in English!
An invited audience of UN officials and dignitaries filled the General Assembly for this unique event. Stevie spoke during the breaks and as part of the show about love and peace and how blindness had made him color blind. You could hear a pin drop in the room during these stories. Stevie is the world’s music goodwill ambassador.
After the show, Stevie — indefatigable– headed downtown to Nobu for a late night celebration. He did tell me that he’s giving a gift to the U.N.– his song, “Conversation Peace.” He says they can use it in any way to promote peace.