Despite manic depressive weather on Tuesday, people showed up en masse for the Montreal International Jazz Festival‘s 30th grand opening. We all had reasons to show up: free music outdoors, it’s summer, and Stevie Wonder’s kick-off concert. It was definitely a fun night to remember! With around 150,000 attendees in about a four block radius, it was also “just a bit” crowded. A friend and I arrived at the festival early enough to weave through the mob and stake out spots in front of the stage, about a half block away. We could see the performance pretty well thanks to the nearby screen. Once the concert started, people loosened up and had enough space to dance in place.
With band members, accompanying singers, and numerous instruments, Stevie Wonder’s performance included “I Can’t Help It”, “Ma Cherie Amour”, “Sir Duke”, “Superstition”, and “Signed, Sealed, Delivered”. He also had a couple really sweet harmonica and keyboard solos. Thanks to Wonder feeding the crowd lyrics and playing the instrumental section, we had a giant sing-along. The off and on drizzle failed to dampen the celebratory mood and spirits remained high before and after the two-and-a-half hour show.
The one shadow was the recent passing of Michael Jackson, but the evening turned into a wonderful tribute to the King of Pop who started in MoTown. Accompanied by his daughter, Aisha Morris, Wonder opened the concert by saying, “I want for us to celebrate the life and the legacy of Michael Jackson. We can continue to keep the life and spirit of this man’s music alive forever”. He also had a few choice words about the vultures exploiting Jackson. Through the night, Jackson’s music was piped through the speakers and everyone on and off stage would groove along. Wonder also adapted “I Just Called to Say I Love You” for Jackson and had everyone singing “Michael, we love you so, never ever gonna let you go”.
So there we were, a sea of people singing, dancing, celebrating, and having a grand ole time (photos). As Wonder, who received the jazz festival’s Spirit Award, said through the evening:
“This is what it’s all about, the perpetuation of music.”
“I don’t need no negativity. I can feel bad myself.”
“If you have a heart, love somebody. If you have a really big heart, love everybody.”
“I Just Called to Say I Love You”