Beverley Knight sings the songs of Stevie Wonder, Symphony Hall, Birmingham - review

The ultimate soul sister, Wolverhampton’s very own Beverley Knight, hit the ground running last night at the Birmingham Symphony Hall with a celebration of one of best-loved singer song writers of recent times, the incomparable Stevie Wonder.

Originally recorded for BBC Radio 2’s Friday Night Is Music Night series at the London Palladium in late 2018, together with the outstanding Leo Green Orchestra, Birmingham is the final stop on a 10-date tour around the country and what an epic performance to round things off with.

Classed as one of the best soul singers, not only in Great Britain, but now internationally too, there is no doubt that Beverley is one of the only vocalists who has the range, perfect pitch and talent to perform such sophisticated musical arrangements and, given that this year she is also celebrating a quarter of a century in the music business, the experience too.

The Birmingham Symphony Hall was the perfect venue for this concert, largely due to the incredible acoustics, but also the intimate feel of the place, despite holding more than 2,000 people and even before the concert began, the atmosphere was electric.

Bev burst onto the stage with Superstition and the whole audience rose to its feet to dance and sing along, barely staying in their seats for the rest of the night.

She then vocalised Stevie’s fight for social justice and his need to speak his mind depicted in the lyrics of Living for the City and Mr Know It All in homage to the star.

Something about Your Love and what Bev described as one of the most heart-breaking songs of all time, Lately, followed; the perfect opportunity to show off her incredible range, runs and vocal strength. Given that Lately was written for a man to sing, she stayed true to Stevie Wonder’s original version and did not change the lyrics to fit a female; such is her admiration and respect for the star.

The hits just kept on coming, with I Do, which incidentally Bev told us she walked down the aisle to, Always, Higher Ground and Sneaking out the Back Door being highlights.

Knight’s connection with the Midlands audience was remarkable, but then she was only 20 miles from where she was born and the pride, love and wonder (pardon the pun) from the adoring audience was tangible.

Act two saw some old school Stevie, with Don’t You Worry About a Thing, For Once in My Life and Isn’t She Lovely?, but for me the highlight of the evening was her incredible performance of my personal favourite Stevie Wonder song, the lesser known Ribbon in the Sky, which I was delighted to hear is one of Bev’s favourites too.

There was a snippet from her new album, BK25 which is out soon and then a medley of Bev’s own music including A Place Called Nowhere, Greatest Day, Keep This Fire Burning and the superb Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda.

Bev finished the evening with a rousing finale from The Bodyguard, I’m Every Woman which brought the house down for a final time.

With an incredible orchestra, exceptionally talented backing singers and simple, but effective lighting and staging effects, this concert had all the elements of an evening of perfect musical entertainment.

People of the Midlands, we should be so proud of our queen of soul because not only is she a recording star and an esteemed musical influence on so many young singers, but is a stunning performer and certainly knows how to give her audiences a “Knight to remember.” Phenomenal.

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