After a last-minute announcement, Stevie Wonder played a surprise set of songs Monday afternoon at a free pop-up concert in Philadelphia’s Dilworth Park.
The City Hall crowd, packed with fans diverse in age and race, gladly endured the 90-degree heat to hear the Motown legend play a handful of his hits.
“Stevie’s music has always been a moral compass for a lot of people. He speaks truth to power and his music is known worldwide,” said longtime fan Wayne Wormley.
Tiffany Thompkins, 20, is happy to defy generational boundaries with her musical passions.
“People tell me that all the time, ‘Oh you’re an old soul.’ I really love music like that, like R&B, old school music, all that,” she said.
The crowd at Dilworth Park overflowed in all directions. City Hall office workers grooved to the music from the ledges of open windows. Businessmen and businesswomen gazed at the scene below from skyscrapers high above. Commuters lingered at the 15th Street clothespin to the sound of booming bass.
Stacie Johnson and her friend stood at the back edge of Dilworth’s lawn with a clear view of Wonder.
She associates Wonder’s music with her older siblings, especially her brother who passed last year.
“I just love his voice. I just want to hear three or four songs in a row, and I’ll take the heat,” she said.
Drummer John Holback biked downtown for the show with his girlfriend from East Falls.
“He always seems like he’s having a good time. He writes great songs,” said Holback. “Makes me feel good.”
A man who goes by the nickname of Pitcher Mann remembers seeing Wonder play the Uptown theater on North Broad street when Wonder was a teenager. From then on, he was hooked.
“It’s very lucky for us to be able to witness this. This is a historical moment,” he said. “When my buddy told me, I thought he was pulling my leg.”
The 65-year-old Wonder used the show to announce an additional 20 dates for his “Songs in the Key of Life” tour, including another gig in Philadelphia in October.
The Dilworth Park appearance was sandwiched between stops Monday in Washington, D.C., and New York City.