Thursday night at London’s famous Palladium was thoroughly uplifting. Every year BBC Radio 2 take over the iconic venue for a week, to celebrate some of the most legendary musicians to ever graced the stage. This years menu included the Keane frontman Tom Chaplin recounting the hits of Queen and US soul star Peabo Bryson reminiscing over the songs of Barry White. Tonight, however, Beverly Knight played chaperone as she took the audience on a journey through the expansive back catalogue of Stevie Wonder.
Wonder really needs no introduction. He’s a groundbreaking artist who skips between instruments and genres like a child with a rope. In his later albums, such as the legendary ‘Songs In The Key of Life’ and ‘Talking Book’, Wonder can be found playing every single instrument and singing every single note. Not too shabby. Knight, by contrast, is a singer by trade and has made herself a household name throughout her expansive career. She brings a dose of soul and seems to have a voice so versatile that it could tackle anything.
Backing Knight was accompanied by the incredible Leo GreenOrchestra which kicked off the show with Wonder’s universally recognisable ‘Superstition’. After a short introduction from our conductor Leo Green, Knight bounced onto the stage ready to dive straight into the act. Knight is nothing short of incredible and handled Wonders notoriously challenging songs with ease and charisma.
From then on, there was really no stopping her, or the audience for that matter. The crowd, which was seated bounced up and began to dance throughout the two-hour performance. Knight as the perfect host, with stories and special moments, recounted during songs. Before launching into a rendition of the funky ‘Do I Do’ she recounted dancing back down the aisle to the track when she was married in 2012. Knight seemed genuinely thrilled to be there and part of the whole experience, blinking back tears after ‘All I Do’ and ‘Lately’, which both explore the binding of obsession and heartbreak.
Knight took a fresh and lively take on a whole host of classics. The audience showed the vibrancy of true fans, who knew and felt every single word. There is something unknowably complex about Wonder’s music that makes it mysterious to those with even a trained musical ear, but the kind of stories that he weaves can be universally recognised and known. Wonder doesn’t get round to visiting the UK much; his last outing was two years ago at British Summer Time Festival in Hyde Park, and there’s no sign of him returning any time soon. But until then, we have Knight, an explosive talent in her own right who owned every single note of this iconic back catalogue.