To finish off our second day at ACL Fest 2011, I got the pleasure of shooting a few minutes of the Stevie Wonder set that was headlining the west side of the park while Cassidy Blackwell hung back and took in the whole set as a fan. Read on for her words and my photos from the set…
For months I have been giddy with excitement to see Stevie Wonder’s headlining Saturday night performance at ACL, but apparently so were the 80,000 attendees. Half hour before his set began, the main stage lawn was already jam packed with a gridlock of sweaty festival goers trying to position themselves to catch a breeze and/or a good view of the stage to catch a glimpse of Stevie Wonder himself.
At 8:30 sharp, the band kicked into the funky, instrumental groove of “Master Blaster” then thousands went wild when Stevie finally appeared in the wings of stage left in a glittering red and gold daishiki with his signature Stevie smile on his face. While playing a keytar, he crossed the stage on his own to his position at center stage to finish the jam then launched into an homage to the late King of Pop with “The Way You Make Me Feel”.
The next hour and a half was pure, musical history transcendence as Stevie dove into his prolific repertoire and played hit after hit after hit. “I don’t ever want to write a song like this again,” he explained before the urban injustice-exposing ballad “Living for the City”. Then immediately those sentiments countered with the uplifting “Higher Ground” and “Don’t You Worry Bout a Thing”.
Stevie then proceeded to dig into some of his earliest hits including “For Once in My Life”, “Signed Sealed Delivered” and “My Cherie Amour”. As a true testament to the artist’s status as a musical legend, the enraptured ACL crowd sang along to each and every word of these classics even 45 years after these songs were originally recorded.
Other highlights include “Sir Duke”, “Always” and an energetic closing with the crowd-pleasing “Superstitious”. It was truly a dream come true to see this living legend perform live and the energy of the crowd was palpable. As an artist he has been an inspiration and to fans and peers alike, but most importantly he has created music that has the power to transcend cultural, social, and geographic boundaries to bring people together
Stevie Wonder is without a doubt one of the greatest musicians of our time; for longtime and new fans alike, Stevie Wonder delivered one of the highlights of the entire Austin City Limits Music Festival experience.