Stevie Wonder's transcendent "Songs in the Key of Life" performance at Oracle Arena on Dec. 5 included prescient commentary on police brutality and the need for global love.
"I really look forward to writing a song that will deal with peace in the key of life," said Wonder, a United Nations Messenger of Peace, before playing an almost four-hour show full of surprises.
The set included a full band, string orchestra and special guests like soul singer India.Arie, Bay Area percussion queen Sheila E and comedian/impromptu tambourine shaker Dave Chappelle.
Wonder was relaxed and charming with his collaborators and with the audience in between tunes from his seminal 1976 album as well as rarities and surprises, like a cover of his friend Michael Jackson's "The Way You Make Me Feel."
He flirted easily between keyboards, harmonica and harpeijji, a young instrument that gives him piano, guitar and percussive sounds. Near the conclusion, he dipped into a persona called DJ Tick Tick Boom to cut and scratch his way through blips of hits like "My Cherie Amour," "Superstition" and "Living for the City."
But his comments on the current consciousness were poignant enough to rival these extraordinary musical feats.
"Let me say this to you," he said before starting "Living for the City." "I have policemen that work for me and I love them and respect them dearly, but here's my thing: I feel that no one citizens or policemen are ever beyond the law. When you have a grand jury two times within a month that can't come up with a fair decision, there's a problem. . . We can't have people dying, we are a people that belong to each other no matter what ethnicity and I'm sick and tired of playing this song and having to know that things are still happening right now. You understand as well. Just keeping it real."