Stevie in a Wonderful mood for last night of Festival d’Été

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Photo: Jay Ouellet

Stevie Wonder put on a magical performance for the final concert of the 2013 Festival d'Été.  

On the afternoon prior to his evening performance on the Plains of Abraham Sunday to conclude the 2013 Festival d'Été, Stevie Wonder held a press conference at the Hilton Hotel. He even delivered a taste of what to expect that night, playing a harpejji - a cross between a piano (the instrument that Wonder is most famous for) and a guitar. Organizers were hard-put to describe the recently-developed stringed musical instrument. But when Wonder played it, everyone in the room came alive with an experience of a lifetime as he asked them to join him in singing the "la, la, laa, la la la" chorus of his 1969 song "My Cherie Amour." It was a fitting choice for Quebec City, even if Wonder only speaks a few words of French like "Je t'aime."

Wonder said he was "in a great mood" mostly because "I love this thing called life" and was looking forward to a "great time" at the concert.

Before Wonder answered any questions, however, he took the time to offer his "prayers and condolences and my heart," to the families affected by the tragedy in Lac-Mégantic. At the concert that evening, he dedicated his performance to the victims of the crash.

Mayor Régis Labeaume, who was watching the show from the VIP tent, applauded this along with the roaring crowd. Wonder also dedicated the show to the memory of Trayvon Martin, criticizing "wannabe cops" and racism and asking for "better gun laws." Wonder said he was "truly honoured to be here," answering questions about why he chose to perform in Quebec City by saying, "I love the people here and I thought you all deserved to see me again."

Wonder frequently expressed his strong beliefs about equality for everyone calling himself a "messenger of peace" whose mission is "to make the world more accessible" especially for, but not limited to, people with disabilities. He also spoke about women's rights, human rights, racism, and injustices of the world. He compared not making the world accessible to everyone to "like saying I can breathe, but I'm not allowing you to breathe."

Wonder announced the possibility of returning soon to Quebec, perhaps to sing "Ebony and Ivory" with Paul McCartney, saying, "You need to tell Paul to call me and I will come back and perform that song" with him. Then he seemed to spontaneously decide, "Why not come back and do a benefit?" Adding, "to raise money to help the families out," (in Lac-Mégantic) if organisers could arrange it. He explained that his philosophy is, "Don't talk about it - be about it."

Wonder switched instruments throughout the night performing on the piano, "keytar" (a cross between a keyboard and a guitar), harmonica, and harpejji. He had a large entourage of performers around him, including four backup vocalists (one of whom is his daughter), two percussionists, a drummer, two keyboardists, a trumpeter and a saxophonist, two guitarists and a bass player. He performed a few covers saying, "We can't do this show without a little Michael," before playing Jackson's "The Way You Make Me Feel." Other covers included Paul McCartney's "Michelle" and Bob Marley's "Waiting in Vain." Wonder didn't disappoint, playing his classics, such as "I Just Called to Say I love You," and "Superstition." The superstar endeared himself to the audience from the moment he appeared on stage. He created an intimate relationship by talking to the crowd, teasing them, having them repeat lyrics and sing along with him throughout the show, setting the tone for a truly entertaining evening.

A sober moment came towards the end of the concert when Wonder removed his sunglasses to reveal his eyes. Wonder has been blind since shortly after his premature birth. The usually smiling Wonder appeared serious and overcome with emotion, putting his face in his hands before talking about the "battle for justice" and encouraging people to "vote for change."

He also stated, "Until the stand-your-ground law in Florida is abolished, I will no longer perform there," again referring to the Martin case, the young black teenager who was shot and killed by a white man, who was acquitted on the grounds of self-defense. Wonder soon returned to his lighthearted self saying, "Let's celebrate!" and getting into the most upbeat part of the night near the end of the show singing a funky "Happy Birthday" to a staff member.

Bowing to the crowd from both sides of the stage, Wonder left the stage arm-in-arm with members of his entourage, leaving fans hoping for an encore. We will just have to hope he keeps his promise and comes back soon.