Stevie Wonder Woos a Keytar at Austin City Limits - Rolling Stone
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Stevie Wonder Woos a Keytar at Austin City Limits

The soul-pop legend rules day two of the Texas mega fest

stevie wonder austin city limits acls 2011 keytar

Stevie Wonder on keytar at Austin City Limits.

C Flanigan/WireImage

Let the doubts be put to rest once and for all: Stevie Wonder can still make love to a keytar. After opening his night-ending Austin City Limits Festival set with a cover of Marvin Gaye’s “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You),” he launched into a keytar solo that included lying down on the stage, continuing to play and then doing what can really only be described as humping the keytar – a move that drew cheers from the crowd of thousands.

After what shall heretofore be known as the Wonder Keytar-Humping Incident, he filled his set with classics like “Higher Ground,” “I Just Called to Say I Love You,” “Ma Cherie Amour,” “Signed Sealed Delivered” and “Sir Duke,” and a cover of Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel.” He abandoned the keytar after a couple songs and then switched between a keyboard and a grand piano (more difficult, though not impossible, to make love to; certainly, if anyone could do it, it would be Stevie Wonder). He was accompanied by four backup singers (three slinky women and one dapper man), a trumpet, a saxophone, a guitarist and two drummers – and showed that at 61, he still has the charisma, the voice and the stamina to play nearly two-hour set, though at times, it was difficult to actually hear him over the sound of his band and the din of the crowd. And he’s grown no less outspoken; his on-stage banter mostly consisted of mini-rants about how Obama is misunderstood and Georgia death row inmate Troy Davis (although when he referenced Davis, the crowd seemed unaware of who he was).           

Most of the day, in fact, seemed as though everyone was just getting ready for Wonder. “We were setting up and listening to Stevie Wonder soundcheck – that was amazing!” said Telekinesis lead singer and drummer Michael Lerner, whose band started at the rock-unfriendly hour of 11:45 a.m. in front of a surprisingly robust crowd – though it’s true that Austin does have an excellent hangover cure in the form of breakfast tacos; there was also a noticeable contingent of audience members who were still in (teeth) braces.

Later, as the sun was setting, TV on the Radio also name-checked Wonder as they performed a blistering set whose highlights included a high-energy rendition of the plaintive love song “Will Do,” with lead singer Tunde Adebimpe wailing, as the song builds to a massive crescendo, “Anytime will do/No choice of words will break me from this rule/Anytime will do/What choice of words will bring me back to you.” Their finale was a frenetic version of their now-classic “Staring at the Sun,” off their 2003 debut EP Young Liars, a song whose live performance has evolved into an anthem for the band’s fans.

By the time Wonder was scheduled to go on at 8 p.m., the crowd seemed to stretch for miles. Across the park, My Morning Jacket were playing simultaneously, and while the reports exiting Zilker Park seemed to indicate that their sound quality was far superior to Wonder’s, there was no mention of frontman Jim James doing anything to a keytar.

Watch My Morning Jacket, TV on the Radio and Cut Copy perform at ACL day two:

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