With Beverley Knight’s celebration of the songs of Stevie Wonder, recorded for BBC’s Friday Night Is Music Night at the London Palladium, having been such a success, a 10-date tour is taking the magic of that night around the country and Sheffield’s City Hall was one of the lucky venues to host, what was, a magical evening.
As with the BBC production, Beverley Knight was joined by the Leo Green Orchestra and, with the band pumping out the unmistakable intro to Stevie Wonder’s Superstition, the packed audience was already up and dancing as Leo Green welcomed Beverley Knight to the stage.
“It’s good to see you on your feet already!” she called before launching into one of Stevie Wonder’s best-loved songs, setting the tone for a dynamic performance which had the audience boogieing along for most of the evening.
“It’s so good to be singing the songs of a living genius,” said Beverley. who looked stunning in a sparkly white lace jumpsuit. “I can’t tell you what a joy it is to be singing these songs.”
She tempered the pace with a portrait of ghetto-life, Living For The City, and He’s Misstra Know-It-All, Wonder’s look at social injustice and a veiled dig at former US President Richard Nixon.
Lately demonstrates Wonder’s incredible perception of emotion and seeing it through the eyes of a sighted person. “One of the most heart-breaking songs ever…” said Beverley after a most sensitive performance of this tender ballad.
Time for the audience to get to their feet again with a couple of early Wonder classics I Was Made To Love Her and Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday. The energy from the stage was infectious and Beverley was loving it. “If you wanna dance, then do it!” she urged, and “This is a banger!” Do I Do. “Do not sit down!” Higher Ground and Wonder’s memories of childhood, I Wish.
The interval gave Beverley Knight and the audience a much-needed chance to catch their collective breath. This was a vibrant, high-energy performance and a wonderful homage to one of the greatest singer-songwriters whose music transcends many genres from soul to pop to rock and jazz. The orchestra was equally brilliant, capturing the essence of the Motown sound and led by the irrepressible Leo Green.
For the second set, Beverley Knight returned in a black lacy jumpsuit and picked up the pace again with Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing and more from Wonder’s early catalogue For Once In My Life and Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours.
Relaxing the pace a little, she continued with Isn’t She Lovely and “the utterly beautiful” Ribbon In The Sky. Beverley recalled Sir Duke as being the first song she remembers hearing on the radio, and driving her parents mad by singing the melody over and over again before closing the set with ‘Little Stevie’s’ first UK hit Uptight (Everything’s Alright).
With everyone on their feet, and baying for more, Beverley bounced back onto the stage for an encore of songs from her own outstanding back catalogue including Greatest Day and Shoulda Woulda Coulda. “I hope you’re having the best night,” she called. “Take it from me, I am!” Now Or Never is taken from her forthcoming BK25 album (celebrating her own 25 years in the business) before the party finally comes to an end with the classic I’m Every Woman.
Phew! This had been a mass work-out of epic proportions. There was so much joy in the hall, a truly magical night.
Set List – The Songs Of Stevie Wonder
Living For The City
He’s Misstra Know It All
Knocks Me Off My Feet
I Was Made To Love Her
Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday
All In Love Is Fair
Do I Do
Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing
For Once In My Life
Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours
Isn’t She Lovely
Ribbon In The Sky
Master Blaster (Jammin’)
Uptight (Everything’s Alright)
Encore – Beverley Knight songs
Made It Back
Keep This Fire Burning
Shoulda Woulda Coulda
Now Or Never I’m Every Woman