The soulful English singer made her amphitheater debut on Sunday night, celebrating two decades of her music. The review and photo gallery at Local Spins.
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For 90 minutes, Joss Stone wowed the sold-out crowd Sunday night at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park with “a celebration of 20 years of music.”
“It’s such a special place to play,” she raved of the venue in her lilting British accent. “There’s flowers everywhere!”
Taking the stage in a runway-ready floral gown, the artist born Joscelyn Eve Stoker unfurled a fast-paced stream of favorites, picked by fans last year in an online poll to represent the two decades of music she has created since debuting “The Soul Sessions” at age 16.
It was incredible then to witness this British teenager belt out high-octane notes reminiscent of Motown’s greatest artists, and it’s extraordinary now to see how Stone has only grown in passion and ability.
Her opening medley of “You Had Me” / “Free Me” / “Bad Habit” / “You Got the Love” hooked the crowd — fans who where all in by the time Stone jumped into “Super Duper Love (Are You Diggin’ On Me).” For the latter tune, she made her way up the stairway to the right of the crowd, stopping at the very top of the amphitheater to sing with the littlest concertgoers. (Stone herself is the mother of two little ones, two-year-old Violet and baby Shackleton, whose traumatic birth in October 2022 made headlines.)
On Sunday night, Stone was all smiles and giggles and joyfulness. “Lovely little vibe you’ve got here,” she remarked at one point.
Highlights included a sultry, slow-cooked rendition of her song “Jet Lag,” a brilliant medley of the raucous “Tell Me ‘Bout It” and Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly”, and Botswana–inspired “Rain Song,” a gentle world music gem.
“We’re all here together because of sounds we all like,” she said. “It’s actual magic.”
“Music,” an ode to, well, music, meandered pleasantly before rising into a thumping, feel-it-in-your-bones bass line and finally bursting with a full-throttle rock flourish. It was just another showcase for Stone’s effortless musical gear changes.
The whole night emerged like a sonic quilt of genres, from rock to jazz to reggae to world music.
And every song and style was tied together by a voice so mighty, so mesmerizing and fervent it wouldn’t be blasphemy to compare it to that of Aretha. Or Dusty (Stone covered Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man”). Or Janis (“Piece of My Heart” was a fierce finale, as Stone’s redux seemed less like a cover and more like she was merging vocals with Ms. Joplin herself).
A FOOT-STOMPING FINISH AND A POTENT OPENING SET
How to top off such a night? With Stone’s soul-stirring, foot-stomping spin on “Some Kind of Wonderful” by Soul Brothers Six. It marked the perfect ending, with the rousing reminder that an hour-and-a-half spent with Joss Stone and her one-in-a-million voice really is a special kind of wonderful.
As globally-infused as Stone’s show was, the opening set by Stephen Wilson (“like the volleyball”), Jr., was very specific in its location: Rural, southern Indiana, from whence the singer-songwriter hails.
Songs such as “Calico Creek,” with bright melodies that skip along, belying darker lyrics, or “Cuckoo,” a bluegrass-y homage to hardworking Americans, show the artist’s roots.
The song, “billy,” was a peak moment, a rip-roaring tune dedicated to “all the hillbillies” out there, with cheeky lyrics stating “You can call me ‘billy’ but the hills stay with me.”
But the highest point came at the end of Wilson’s set, as he launched into the potent “Holler from the Holler,” highlighting his Springsteen-esque, gravelly vocals, and pounding guitar. The former boxer and scientist, married to Sixpence None the Richer’s lead singer Leigh Nash, drops his debut album (“son of dad”) on Sept. 15.
Next Up at Meijer Gardens: The Beach Boys return for a sold-out show at 7 p.m. today (Monday). It’s the next-to-last Fifth Third Bank Summer Concerts show of the summer. Guster wraps up the series on Sept. 15.
PHOTO GALLERY: Joss Stone, Stephen Wilson Jr. at Meijer Gardens
Photos by Natalie Lopez