Not even threats of increment weather could keep away a crowd of more than 150,000 Stevie Wonder diehard fans from the free opener of Montreal’s 30th International Jazz Festival on June 30.
Launched with such a bang, Jazz Fest 2009 seemed to reach its crescendo from jump with Stevie Wonder stressing the message of love in a set that was part Stevie’s greatest and part dedication to the late Michael Jackson.
In a stirring introductory monologue, Stevie, accompanied by daughter Iesha** spoke of his disillusionment with what he termed, “a bunch of bull****” that has been the focus of many media outlets about Michael Jackson. Stevie put spokes in the gossip and encouraged a celebration of Michael’s memory instead of degradation. He said, “We who love the fact that God blessed us with his [Michael’s] voice talent and music…can continue to keep the life and spirit of this man alive… If u wanna do something for his family and children, then buy his music…”
Then the show began and what an absolute treat it was to have this free presentation featuring such a gifted legend. Audience members were from all ages and areas. Yardflex was surrounded by folk from Los Angeles, Alberta and local Montrealers, some of whom had virtually camped out for a good spot to view the event.
Of course all the rain drops dried up for the entirety of Stevie’s performance, that included a beautiful bluesy piece, sung by his daughter, who is also one of his background vocalists.
The forceful sounds of not only the singers but also instrumentalists delighted the crowd that gave tumultuous shouts and applauses at every juncture. Perhaps some of the most profound renditions of many Stevie Wonder hits were performed, at the concert that also ushered in Canada Day in Montreal.
As one of the Montreal International Jazz Festival award recipients, Stevie will receive the 2009 Spirit Award, joining other awardees like, Toots & the Maytals who will receive the Antonio Carlos Jobim Award.