Las Vegas Sun

December 15, 2018

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Stevie Wonder lifts spirits at packed Park Theater

Stevie Wonder

Wonder Productions Inc.

Stevie Wonder performs at Park Theater on August 3.

Stevie Wonder might be the most ideal act for a recurring residency at Park Theater. So far the 5,200-plus state-of-the-art venue at Park MGM has hosted such headliner shows from Cher, Ricky Martin and Bruno Mars (with Lady Gaga set to join the lineup in December), but only the chart-topping Mars has been able to pack the theater with an energetic audience like the one Wonder drew for the first of his five concerts on August 3.

This series is called “The Stevie Wonder Song Party: A Celebration of Life, Love & Music,” and the 68-year-old legend’s joyous charisma, staggering musical ability and resoundingly powerful voice are all that’s needed to make good on that party promise. Backed by an 11-piece band including three vocalists and a DJ, Wonder bounces through his beloved catalog of timeless tunes, never lingering too long in a romantic ballad or soulful jam session and sprinkling in sugary pop hits like “I Just Called to Say I Love You” here and there. For the first Friday night show, the crowd really came alive with the funky opening chords of “Higher Ground” and kept dancing for “Don’t You Worry ‘bout a Thing.”

Wonder occasionally let the DJ spin a favorite track of his own or someone else’s for a bit before the band joined in for a live version or transitioned into a different song, like Michael Jackson’s smooth “I Can’t Help It,” which led to the reggae grooves of “Master Blaster.” He dubbed his audience the Wonder Singers and let us belt out the majority of “My Cherie Amour,” and we loved it but probably didn’t sound very good. He sang John Lennon’s “Imagine” while playing the harpejji, a 10-year-old electric instrument that plays and sounds like a guitar-piano hybrid — something that seems particularly suited for Stevie Wonder.

If you can make it to one of the next shows, plan to get inside Park Theater early. This was the third time I’ve attended a concert event here and dealt with long, slow lines entering the venue, and you won’t want to miss a single song in this set. Hopefully this short run leads to a longer one for Wonder at Park MGM.

The Stevie Wonder Song Party continues at 8 p.m. August 8, 10 and 11 at Park Theater at Park MGM (3770 Las Vegas Blvd. South, 702-730-7777) and more information can be found at mgmresorts.com.