Angie Jackson watches the return of Birmingham’s finest.
An Evening with Bev and Stevie
Beverley Knight Sings the Songs of Stevie Wonder
The fact that we found a free parking space and would be spared the interminable wait of exiting the Arena Birmingham car park bade well for the rest of the evening – not that I wasn’t already aware that any live performance involving the West Midlands’ and (unarguably) the UK’s premier singer would be anything less than fantastic.
I was in the company of my husband Gil, (already a huge fan) and my sister Carmen, who had never seen her live. Expectations were high and she did not disappoint.
Gil and I had already seen Beverley sing songs from Stevie Wonder’s magnificent back catalogue at the London Palladium in November 2018, backed by the excellent Leo Green Orchestra, when it was first recorded for BBC Radio 2. After it was broadcast in February of this year, the BBC was inundated with requests for the concert to be made available on CD and for Beverley to to go on tour, singing the songs.
Tonight was Birmingham’s night; a sort of homecoming at the end of a ten date tour. Leo set the scene perfectly, the brilliant backing singers were in place, the lights shimmered and suddenly she was there in skin tight silver trousers and crop top; bounding onto the stage like an exuberant teenager, to the opening bars of Superstition from Talking Book.
Birmingham audiences are notoriously difficult to excite, but not this one. Everyone, apart from the four planks sitting in front of us, who we wondered if they were actually alive, stood up and danced along with Bev; she had us already. Her respect for Stevie Wonder is tangible and rightly so, as his musical legacy is unmatched.
Beverley’s incredible vocal range and ability to perfectly perform these marvellous songs is truly amazing. She acknowledged Stevie’s social conscience, in Living For The City, Higher Ground and Misstra Know It All from Innervisions.
She went back to the 60s, perfectly showcasing Stevie’s teenage angst in I Was Made To Love Her, Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday and his youthful joy in Uptight and For Once in My Life.
The genius of the 20th Century’s greatest album, Songs In The Key Of Life, was again perfectly performed as Beverley belted out As, I Wish and Sir Duke (the first song she can remember hearing); caressed the beautiful Knocks Me Off My Feet and gently rocked us with Isn’t She Lovely.
Beverley has such respect for Stevie’s canon of work that it oozes from every rendition of his songs. Ribbon In The Sky from In Square Circle, Lately from Hotter Than July and the peerless All Is Fair In Love all delivered with love and sensitivity. Master Blaster, Jammin, Signed, Sealed, Delivered, and Do I Do, all had the whole place rocking.
It was only right that her own musical legacy was acknowledged. Shoulda Woulda Coulda, Keep This Fire Burning, and Greatest Day as well as the forthcoming single from her celebratory album, BK25 , all reminded us that she is a great singer/songwriter herself.
Bev rounded off the night by raising the roof with I’m Every Woman (a nod to her successful role in The Bodyguard) which she dedicated to her mom, who was in the audience. I suspect that her mom was not the only one who thought it was great to have her home. What a night. What a magnificent performer. Pure joy.