NEW YORK — “Just relalalalaaaax!”
That’s what Stevie Wonder had to tell the impatient crowd at the Apollo Theater on Saturday night. Although Wonder was in no danger of getting booed (even the toughest crowd in the world knows better than to commit such blasphemy), some spectators were vocally antsy after waiting more than an hour for Stevie to sing.
Wonder had an important message to get out first: He was there to educate fans about provisions in the 1965 Voting Rights Act that are set to expire in 2007. Once they do, states will gain more power over voting practices, which some fear will lead to difficulties for the poor.
The audience’s patience started wearing thin as a lawyer from the NAACP and New York Congressman Charles Rangel came onstage to speak.
“Stevie, we love you. We want to hear you sing!” one lady screamed from her seat.
“Stevie, please, this is my first time!” another man shouted.
At first Wonder just ignored the crowd’s pleas, then he acknowledged them with a stern “Chill! Know what I’m sayin’?” putting some bass in his voice and even folding his arms in a b-boy stance. He never lost that classic Stevie Wonder smile, though.
Finally he did sing, and the jubilation seemed like a church revival.
“Master Blaster (Jammin’)” was an early highlight, and things really never slowed down from there. “Superstition,” “Higher Ground” and “Living for the City” followed, inspiring plenty of people to dance in the aisles. One man even unbuttoned his shirt and exposed his bare chest.
Then Wonder slowed things down to introduce his oldest daughter, Aisha Morris, who sat next to him for a slow duet from his upcoming album. The closer was his new single, “So What the Fuss” (see “Busta Rhymes Narrates Stevie Wonder Video For Blind Fans” ). He teased the crowd with a little bit of “Do I Do” and then left, but not before reiterating to fans that the next time he tells them to relax, he wants them to chill.
Wonder will be back at the Apollo with his political message and his catalog of hits for another concert on Thursday.
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.