Everyone’s welcome at Stevie Wonder’s ‘Song Party’

Updated August 10, 2018 - 10:07 am

Stevie Wonder guided us through his “Song Party” at the Park Theater on Wednesday night. As the crowd swayed and sang, I recalled partying with Stevie while watching “Sesame Street,” and listening to “Songs in the Key of Life” on vinyl, through headphones, loudly and poorly singing along to all the words.

It is not possible to pinpoint when our first party was, because Stevie Wonder’s voice and music and image have been around all of my life. I can remember watching an episode of “Sesame Street,” with Wonder performing the song with his full band and a bunch of kids my age.

I don’t know why Wonder was on the show that particular day — maybe the program was brought to us by the letter “W.” But I recall how he smiled from behind those shades, and the cultural spectrum of kids who rejoiced in the song.

One kid in particular held the railing of an outdoor staircase and flipped his hair around. I wanted to be that kid, or at least be his buddy.

To enjoy Stevie Wonder it didn’t seem to matter how good a singer you were. Everyone just shouted to his songs, following along as if he were the instructor — and during “My Cherie Amour” in Wednesday’s show at the Park Theater, he referred to himself as a teacher.

Even off-key, we are welcome in the song party. This has been the case forever.

When my parents brought home a copy of “Songs in the Key of Life,” I commandeered the album and took it to the family stereo, in a corner across from the old Zenith TV. We had a pair of these oversize headphones that were white and made of some kind of space-age plastic. The earpieces were covered with thick foam-rubber, so all you could hear was the music from the vinyl album. I remember my parents shouting at me to quiet down as I called out these songs.

I listened to “Key of Life” endlessly, it seemed, my elbows pressed deep into the shag as Steve’s singing was trapped in my head. I gazed at that album cover, those orange circles around the artist’s face, as if being hypnotized by the music. There were even four extra songs on a disc I’d later know to be called an EP. Four more songs! I considered it a musical dessert.

As Wednesday’s show played out, it occurred to me that Wonder had introduced me to so much. When I was 10, I had no clue who “Sir Duke” was. I only knew this Duke Ellington person must have been important if he merited the title of that song. Satchmo was Louie Armstrong, Ella was Ella Fitzgerald, Glenn Miller … a musical education in a single verse.

I’m sure the first time I’d heard a harmonica on a record was even earlier, on “Fingertips,” and I did not even known much about blindness until watching Wonder perform on TV, whether it was “American Bandstand” or “Soul Train” or “Sesame Street.”

Inspired mostly by Wonder, I took piano lessons as a child. I once asked my instructor how this man could perform so wonderfully and effortlessly without being able to see the keys or read any music.

She explained, “Because he is a genius.”

Deep into Wednesday’s set, Wonder fired up the first reggae song I’d ever warmed to, “Master Blaster.” Man. It was time to get up, groove up, and let it out. As if subconsciously, I sang every word to that song, “From the park, I hear rhythms! Marley’s hot on the box!”

And I had not heard “Master Blaster,” end to end, in about 30 years.

Such penetrating brilliance defies explanation. An entertainer friend who was also in the audience said later, “I was watching that and it was like, ‘Yeah. OK. He wrote all those songs. He’s the best of his era. Top five all time.’ ” Wonder has two more shows, Friday and Saturday, at the Park Theater.

Afterward, because we sometimes live in ridiculously good fortune, I was invited to meet the man. One condition was I would not try to interview him — so neither of us would be working as I said hello. But I was able to say “Welcome to Las Vegas” to Stevie Wonder. I told him I’ve seen all the shows in Las Vegas, and I’ve not seen any better than his. I said I hope he’d return, too.

Then Stevie Wonder asked if I had fun. I said, “I think I had as much fun as you did.” We clasped hands and posed for the requisite backstage photo. And the whole time, he smiled in a way that made me feel like a kid again.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

Artists from Cirque du Soleil contribute art to Las Vegas art exhibit
Artists from Cirque du Soleil contribute art to Las Vegas gallery exhibit
Red Plate on the Las Vegas Strip serves a cocktail made with blooming jasmine tea
Red Plate on the Las Vegas Strip serves a cocktail made with jasmine tea
Benny the Ice Skating Dog
Benny is a Las Vegas Labrador who was rescued by former pro skater Cheryl Del Sanyo, and trained to ice skate. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Nevada State Museum
The Nevada State Museum of Las Vegas, located at the Springs Preserve, covers all eras of the state, from prehistoric to today.
Throw a better dinner party
Cash appears at Baseball Winter Meetings
Lights FC mascot Cash plays the electronic drums at the EZ Inflatables’ booth on Tuesday at the Baseball Winter Meetings trade show at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.
5 albums to soundtrack your holiday gatherings in style
1. Various Artists, “Holidays Rule," with Rufus Wainwright, The Shins, Calexico and more. 2. Various Artists, “We Wish You a Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year," with Lemmy Kilmister, Alice Cooper, Chuck Billy and others. 3. Various Artists, “Christmas on Death Row," featuring Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg to name but a few. 4. Bright Eyes, “A Christmas Album.” 5. Various Artists, "The Motown Christmas Album." (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Inside the kitchen at Springs Preserve
The staff of Divine Events do party preparation in the kitchen at Divine Cafe at Springs Preserve. With nine parties the following day, this is a particularly busy time for the crew. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
WinterFest in Henderson.
Miss Rodeo America Fashion Show
The 28 women contestants of Miss Rodeo America compete in a fashion show at the Tropicana on Dec. 7, 2018.
Tournament Of Kings Holiday Show
Wizards and warriors are ready for the holidays at Excalibur's Tournament of Kings Holiday Dinner Show.
Take a dive with the Silverton mermaids
A visit to the Silverton Casino Hotel is not complete without taking in the popular, and very unique, mermaid show.
Cowboys and western aficionados can buy virtually anything at Cowboy Christmas
Vegas Golden Knights Christmas Display
In the Las Vegas Valley, the chances of getting a white Christmas are slim. But this year, you can have a “Knight” Christmas. A Henderson resident has a Christmas lights display that is synchronized to the entrance music for the Golden Knights. GG Misa’s Knights light show is played every 30 minutes from 5 to 10 nightly. His light show consists of two songs: Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” and the entrance music, “Le Castle Vania,” from the movie “John Wick.” The display is located at 730 Bollons Island St. (Richard Brian/Las Vegas Reivew-Journal)
Holiday Hooch At El Cortez is Just in Time For Repeal Day And Christmas
Holiday Hooch At El Cortez Is Just In Time For Repeal Day And Christmas. Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal
TV's LGBT superheroes
Green Valley Ranch's Winter's Village
The Mob Museum
Best Friend Menu Reveal Wednesday
Chef Roy Choi tells us what to expect from Wednesday’s Facebook Live Menu Reveal for his new Park MGM restaurant Best Friend. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Quick Chat With Criss Angel
James D. Gish and Susan Anton rehearse
Susan Anton will be special guest at James D. Gish’s holiday concerts Dec. 7 at Summerlin Library and Dec. 9 at Clark County Library. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio Winter Wonderland
"Majestic Holiday Magic" at the Bellagio Conservatory.
Underwater Santa At The Silverton
Santa takes a dive Sunday, December 2, at the Silverton Casino Hotel. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Cowabunga Bay Christmas Town
Las Vegas Natural History Museum
Las Vegas Natural History Museum, which opened in 1991, has exhibits of mechanical dinosaurs and taxidermied animals, along with live snakes, fish and sharks. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Magical Forest Lights
Cirque Du Soleil Performers Team Up For New Show "Kinekt"
Through dance, acrobatics and aerial arts, “Kinekt” tells a story all too familiar to modern families: how to maintain a human connection in the digital age. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ethel M Holiday Cactus Garden
The Pinball Hall of Fame in Las Vegas
The Pinball Hall of Fame was created by Tim Arnold and opened in 2006. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jump! The Ultimate Dog Show at Springs Preserve in Las Vegas
Trainer Lou “Mack” McCammon guides several rescue dogs through a series of tricks and jumps two shows a day weekends through December at the Springs Preserve in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like