The evening began with a warm up by the orchestra as the teleprompter showed a star-studded audience including Jamie Fox, Jay Z, Pharrell Williams, Ne-Yo, Tony Bennett, Janelle Monae, Tyler Perry, John Legend, Ariana Grande with boyfriend Big Sean, Jennifer Hudson and Gladys Knight. The man of the hour stepped onto the stage wearing a black caftan with a bejeweled collar and stones running down the center of his sleeves. “I see there are a lot of people here … Sorry I’m late. I drove here. The traffic was horrible”, Wonder joked.
Beyoncé opened the show to Wonder’s 1963 first hit “Fingertips” dazzling in a black and gold fitted mini Michael Costello dress, black stalkings and pointy black pumps. Showing off those curves like nobody’s business with her sexy dance moves, she then introduced Ed Sheeran. The flannel wearing British singer-songwriter joined her for an ode to Bob Marley before bringing out Gary Clark Jr. jamming on his guitar for a trio performance of “Higher Ground”.
Host LL Cool J introduced Tony Bennett, handsome in a dark blue suit and red and blue striped tie, performing “For Once in My Life”, resulting in a standing ovation. Tyler Perry took the stage in a light grey suit to share his thoughts on Wonder’s music, “It’s baby making music. Nine months after he sang that at my piano, I had my little boy,” leading into photos of a young Wonder growing up in Detroit, Michigan where motown music was made famous and Grammy winner John Legend taking to his piano to perform “I believe (When I fall In Love It Will Last Forever)” followed by “My Cherie Amour,” by Annie Lennox.
Maya Rudolf introduced “musical royalty”, Lady Gaga who shared her admiration for Wonder “Stevie, you truly are a genius”. Sparkling in a silver batwing shift dress and glitter eye shadow, her enthusiasm was contagious as she played piano for her rendition of “I Wish”.
“This was a very difficult song to sing but I learned my best just to say I love you” Andrea Bocelli admitted after he sang “I Just Called to Say I Love You” followed by a duet by Ariana Grande and her producer, Babyface. The 21 year old gave up her go-go dancer look for a navy wood grain print jumpsuit and classic black patent leather pumps to perform the 70’s hit, “Sign, Sealed, Delivered.”
For one night only we saw three of the best voices in R&B: Jill Scott, Janelle Monae, and India.Arie, get together for a jazz rendition of Wonder’s 1977 “As” followed by a duet from Pharrell Williams and Ryan Tedder for “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing”, “All In Love Is Fair” by Jennifer Hudson (breathtaking in a black gown with high thigh slit and open back) and “Isn’t She Lovely,” by Aisha Morris and Ne-Yo.
Wonder took the stage at the end of the show for a show-stopping delivery of his hits “Superstition” and “You Are the Sunshine of My Life”. Addressing the crowd, “Find a way of committing yourself to love … I cannot leave this stage, this building, this planet without letting you all know that I love you,” Wonder shared with his cheering audience before being joined onstage by all his famous fans and friends for a finale performance of “Happy Birthday.”
The two-hour special will be broadcast in HDTV and 5.1 surround sound on the CBS Television Network on Monday, Feb. 16 from 9 – 11 p.m. ET/PT. You do not want to miss it.