Stevie Wonder Presents House Full of Toys Benefit: ‘Let’s Show the World How to Love Again’
“I’m going to be singing this whole time, so get ready,” one attendee laughingly declared to her neighboring seatmates at Stevie Wonder‘s annual House Full of Toys Benefit Concert. But don’t worry.
Wonder and his guests — including Gregory Porter, Trombone Shorty and Jody Watley — had everyone inside Los Angeles’ sold-out Microsoft Theater singing and dancing along to each and every note Saturday evening (Dec. 17). Just Wonder playing a few notes in the wings of his harmonica before he walked onstage with Rickey Minor, the evening’s musical director and longtime friend, was enough to get the crowd into a frenzy before the concert even started.
House Full of Toys is presented by Wonder’s nonprofit We Are You Foundation. Concertgoers can donate an unwrapped item to benefit children, families with disabilities, and families in need. Now in its 24th year, the performer lineup featured Trombone Shorty who had attendees second-lining a la his native New Orleans when he joined Wonder onstage for an exuberant romp through “Sir Duke.” Prior to that, Jody Watley took fans on her own nostalgia tour, performing her 1989 R&B/pop hit “Real Love” before segueing into a classic from the traditional holiday special A Charlie Brown Christmas, “Christmas Time Is Here.”
Meanwhile, Gregory Porter’s sonorous voiced blanketed the venue with “Take Me to the Alley,” the title track to his 2016 album. Porter said, “That’s why we’re here,” referring to the homeless, hungry, and other people going through life’s struggles.
Tina and Teddy Campbell, Kimberly Brewer, Amber Bullock, and Wonder’s daughters Zaiah, and Nyah rounded out the performers. The pair danced together on a holiday song that Wonder recorded in the late ’60s, “One Little Christmas Tree,” and returned later to sing along with their dad on the standard “The Christmas Song.” Lucky Daye was also scheduled to perform but canceled owing to not feeling well.
Wonder was the star of the holiday concert, as he has been in years past. Wonder gave all he had to an enthusiastic audience who became more excited each time he sang or sat down at the piano or keyboards. Early in the show, Wonder boosted the festive spirit already resonating around the venue when he performed “What Christmas Means to Me,” singing to the original instrumental track recorded back in the ’60s.
Shifting from a raucous sing-along to “I Wish,” one of his many classics, Wonder celebrated the 50th anniversary of his 1972 album Talking Book. Beginning with “You Are the Sunshine of My Life,” he then saluted his late ex-wife and co-writer Syreeta Wright (“Such a wonderful spirit”) with the moving “Blame It on the Sun” before closing the Book suite with an emotional turn on “You and I (We Can Conquer the World).”
After a standing ovation, Wonder broke down and said, “I love you all so much.” All the songs I’ve written and co-written are a tribute to God.
With the clock ticking down to after 11 p.m., Wonder gifted the audience with a mini-concert. The set list included “Do I Do,” “I Love You More” with the aforementioned Brewer, “As,” “Ribbon in the Sky,” “I Just Called to Say I Love You,” “Living for the City” and “Higher Ground.” Closing with another Talking Book selection, the crowd-pleaser “Superstition,” Wonder brought his children and the concert’s entire staff onstage.
Get weekly updates straight to your inbox
I have been writing professionally for over 20 years and have a deep understanding of the psychological and emotional elements that affect people. I’m an experienced ghostwriter and editor, as well as an award-winning author of five novels.