Musician Stevie Wonder performs at the American Airlines Center on Sunday, March 22, 2015 in Dallas.

Musician Stevie Wonder performs at the American Airlines Center on Sunday, March 22, 2015 in Dallas.

Gregory Castillo/Staff Photographer

It makes sense that Stevie Wonder decided to center an entire tour around his 1976 masterpiece, Songs in the Key of Life. The highly acclaimed double album brought together many different sides of the legend - he's a lover, an inspirational figure, a melody master and a storyteller, to name just a few. The scope of material on the album is both overwhelming and innovative, even to this day.

"People will never be able to write all the songs in the key of life," the singer told a near-full house at American Airlines Center before performing on Sunday night. "So here are just some of them."

He proceeded to play Songs from beginning to end with the help of an enormous 30-plus-member ensemble featuring percussionists, horn players, backup singers (including his daughter, Aisha Morris) as well as a locally-curated string section. Wonder himself alternated between keyboards, pianos and a newfangled stringed instrument called the harpejji.

Stevie Wonder performed in Dallas on March 22, 2015.

Stevie Wonder performed in Dallas on March 22, 2015.

Gregory Castillo/Staff Photographer

The man is 64 years old, but he performs with the same standards of perfection to which his fans have been accustomed for decades.

Like Songs in the Key of Life - and life itself, come to think of it - Sunday's stunning three-hour concert exposed thousands of lucky fans to a wide range of emotions:

Pain

When Wonder began Sunday's concert by dedicating it to a past songwriting collaborator, Yvonne Wright, we didn't think it to be more than a nice gesture from one friend to another. Later, the reasoning behind the dedication became clearer as he explained, through tears, that Wright has been dealing with cancer. "I'm trying to get through this," Wonder said, because he wanted to ask his audience for their prayers for both Wright and longtime band member Keith John, who's had a recent health scare of his own. 

The emotion behind those requests came bubbling back up as Wonder sang the beautifully unique chorus of "Joy Inside My Tears," literally shaking his fists in the air to push out the most challenging notes. And just as the song was about to end, out came the focus of Wonder's earlier dedication, Yvonne Wright. She hugged the star from behind, surprising him, and he could barely get the last word of the song out - "tears." "It'll be alright," Wright told him. 

Frustration

The superstar appeared to recognize how relevant the street poetry of "Village Ghetto Land" is nearly 40 years after it was released. Wonder noted while performing the song that its depictions of poverty and injustice still ring painfully true in 2015. He has a way of infusing even his darkest tunes with an end-of-tunnel lightness, though, whether it's felt in a melody's structure or sung with a hopeful tone. 

The equality anthem "Black Man" came off as a celebration of diversity, earning an enthusiastic response from the AAC crowd. And Wonder's power to inspire shone through as "Pastime Paradise" weaved in lines from "We Shall Overcome."

Love

Wonder's vocals, which rarely dipped below perfection on Sunday, reached the height of their brilliance during the romantic songs from the Key of Life album. His focus showed on his face as he nailed the "Knocks me Off My Feet" vocal. He loosened up a bit more on "Isn't She Lovely" and a gorgeously delivered, stripped-down take on "If It's Magic." 

My favorite two songs of the evening, though, required Wonder to let his passion and drama unfurl slowly. Concert opener "Love's in Need of Love Today" started off rather unassuming and built toward growling, soulful intensity. "Summer Soft" employed the slow build, too - multiple key changes near the end allowed Wonder to aim higher and higher.

The man is 64 years old, but he performs with the same standards of perfection to which his fans have been accustomed for decades.

Joy

The one-two punch of "Sir Duke" and "I Wish" brought most folks out of their seats. It felt as though the whole house was movin' and groovin' for a few moments. But Wonder doesn't only find happiness in upbeat hooks - he also adores a good extended jam. There were plenty of times when he would yield the floor to one of the members of his super-sized band for a solo. He engaged in an impromptu harmonica battle with one of his players, and even challenged the audience to a sing-off ("Ladies, you don't sound as good as the women sounded in Houston - work it out.") 

Let's not forget about Wonder, the comedian, who did everything he could for natural laughs including imitating a Texas drawl ("Y'awl wanna jam some mo'?") and poking fun at the silly conspiracy theorists who question his blindness.

After the tunes from Life were done and before he lit up AAC one last time with "Superstition," Wonder stepped into character as  "DJ Chick Chick Boom" - and teased fans with short snippets of hits he never intended to finish live (sorry, "Part Time Lover"). 

Even if some classics couldn't be squeezed in on Sunday, the show itself left nothing to be desired. I'd go again tomorrow if I could. 

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