Golden Wonder show

Rock

A LUCKY person was to be invited onstage to sing "My Cherie Amour" with Stevie Wonder. It had "never happened in the history of life, except for last night," Wonder announced. He lowered his dark glasses to scan the crowd. "That woman there in the white shirt, two rows back, three along ... there'll be an article about this in the paper tomorrow: 'Blind Singer Stevie Wonder Is Not So Blind After All!' "

Steveland Morris was in a skittish mood on Tuesday. Even though he described the concert - one of two in aid of the Royal National Institute for the Blind - as a momentous event, it didn't stop him joking, gargling a tune with a swig of bottled water or trying out his cockney accent. "I know it's the Royal Albert Hall and I respect that, but tonight's a little different,'' he grinned. "Tonight this is Stevie's house."

In fact the show was a lot better suited to the Albert Hall than most pop concerts are. It was the Last Night of the Proms with a funky bass line: Wonder's sheer, infectious determination to have fun had the well- dressed gala punters loosening their bow ties and clapping along. "The sighted people are rushing it," he chided as he conducted them. "You have no excuse. You can see my hands."

Two drummers kept the beat as effervescent as Wonder's mood - one of them spinning his sticks so energetically that he was lucky he didn't take off - three backing singers bopped, and one song segued into the next without losing momentum. Supplementing the Prom feel was an orchestra in black tie, but even behind their perspex screens they were not safe from Wonder's puckishness. "Give me a saxophone solo," he'd command, and the sax players would shoot startled expressions at each other that said, "You do it! No, you do it!" They'd just about agree on which of them should be playing when Wonder's nimble harmonica would interrupt and show them how it's done.

His material may not be as thrilling as it was, but Wonder remains a superb musician - whether slicing effortlessly through the band with his acrobatic voice, laying down a squelchy riff on the keyboard or sky-blue grand piano, or clicking and wailing and sighing on the harmonica. There were times when you would be entranced by this expertise only to realise a minute or two later that it was being used on some anaemic piano ballad.

Even so, the selections from his latest album Conversation Peace (Motown) were, if not high points, certainly fair to middling points, particularly "Cold Chill", with its kicking swingbeat bigger and raunchier than it is on record. He was, perhaps, rather too tubby for all that pelvic thrusting, though. It's a while since he's been Little Stevie Wonder.

Towards the end of a show approaching Springsteenesque duration, he took us back to the golden Wonder years: "Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Yours", "You Are the Sunshine of My Life", a monstrously funky "Superstition", all with a zeal that matched that of the audience. It was Stevie's house and the roof was raised.

Songwriters take note. If you want to sell a composition to Celine Dion, glance at her setlist from the Hammersmith Apollo on Thursday for inspiration: "When I Fall in Love", "The Power of Love", "The Colour of My Love", "Can't Help Falling in Love", and, for the polyglots among you, "Pour que tu m'aimes encore encore", which proved that bland, production-line pop is the same in any language.

It's vapid stuff - soft-rock anthems, white soul ballads, all with elephantine choruses and jolting key changes. It's rendered only slightly less painful because Dion can hold a note for decades, and if she sang the shipping forecast it would drip with emotion. She's the queen of Canadian pop, seeing off rivals like ... well, all those other Canadian female vocalists whose names escape me.

On Top of the Pops Dion seems a classy diva. Onstage, she was an ugly duckling who has grown up to be an ostrich. In her black suit she looked like Stan Laurel; she did a jerky, gangly dance like Jarvis Cocker; and she talked like Ernie from Sesame Street.

And God, did she talk. She gushed about how she loves Britain, how she loves us, how she loves her record company. Bonnie Langford is a venomous bitch in comparison. A fan presented her with a cuddly dalmation and she waved it at one of the keyboard players. "Ruff, ruff!" she said. When she sang "Beauty and the Beast", the title track of the Disney film, she hugged her backing singer mid-verse.

The audience believes all this schlock because, somehow, Dion believes it too. She left primary school to become a professional singer under the guidance of manager Rene Angelil, a mere 26 years her elder, and now her husband. (Anyone caught whistling "Beauty and the Beast" at the wedding was ejected from the church.) Like Michael Jackson, she seems not to distinguish between real life and showbiz, and this gives her the capacity to be sincere when she thanks the band, the lighting men, the sound men, and the promoters. Canada may be famous for its syrup but there's only so much of the stuff that you can take.

Mudhoney subvert the traditional grunge-song structure (quiet bit / loud bit / quiet bit / loud bit) with their own variation: quiet bit / loud bit / loud bit / loud bit, sometimes omitting the quiet bit at the start. From the same plaid-clad Seattle gene pool as Nirvana, they prefer jokey cynicism to existential angst, as demonstrated by their new album My Brother the Cow (Warner) and its brattish jabs at the music business, and, they assure us, absolutely not at Courtney Love in particular.

Live at the Shepherd's Bush Empire on Friday, their irreverence was drowned out by what sounded like an aeroplane landing. Both their stage show and their audience went for that slacker can't-be-bothered look. If Mudhoney are going to play thrash metal they could at least spice it up with studded leather and the ritual abuse of small animals.

Arts and Entertainment
Kathy (Sally Lindsay) in Ordinary Lies
tvReview: The seemingly dull Kathy proves her life is anything but a snoozefest
Arts and Entertainment

Listen to his collaboration with Naughty Boy

music
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig in a scene from ‘Spectre’, released in the UK on 23 October

film
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap

film
Arts and Entertainment

Poldark review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Katie Brayben is nominated for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Carole King in Beautiful

film
Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
film
News
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
tv
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

    War with Isis

    Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
    Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

    A spring in your step?

    Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

    Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
    Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

    Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

    For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
    Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

    Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

    As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
    The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

    UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

    Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

    Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
    Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

    Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

    If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
    10 best compact cameras

    A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

    If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
    Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

    Paul Scholes column

    Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
    Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

    Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

    Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
    Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?