Friends and foes alike say the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino can offer amenities no other South Florida venue can, and boy, there was some proof Tuesday night.
About 675 VIPs were treated to an intimate concert by the legendary Stevie Wonder. He played for 2 hours, 15 minutes at the Hard Rock Live, supported by his 14-piece band (four backup singers, trumpet and sax players, two guitarists, a bassists, two keyboardists, a drummer and two percussionists).
The concert had been set for poolside, but staff moved it to the Hard Rock Live because of the weather. They also told guests in no uncertain terms that photography was not allowed (so that photo you see is from our files).
The concert, which had not been advertised, included an open bar, appetizers and girls in modern-day go-go outfits dancing continuously. The crowd pushed up to the stage, and Wonder, well, there just aren't many, if any, like him.
His opening hour was an eclectic collection, including James Taylor's/Marvin Gaye's "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)," Michael Jackson's "You Make Me Feel" and the Beatles' "Day Tripper."
But there also was a surprise for Wonder. A birthday cake, with sparklers for candles, was rolled out toward the end of the show, and Wonder seemed genuinely surprised. One reason might have been that his birthday is really May 13. (He turned 63.)
"I didn't see that coming," he said. (Do I need to explain here that he's blind, and he was joking, and ... OK, you got it.) Of course, by the time he had made his way to the cake, the no-photo rule wasn't being broken just by miscreants, but by everyone, which you could kind of argue was understandable.
By my quick check, Wonder has toured only once in the past decade, and that was only for 13 performances, although he has been visible at TV specials, big events and other special occasions, and he closed The Hangout Festival in Gulf Shores, Ala., on Sunday. It's hard to say what the Seminole Hard Rock spent to bring him for a night of entertaining their biggest players, and while I didn't stick a notebook in anybody's face and ask them, the fact that most VIPs stayed the entire show -- rather than hitting the slots and tables nearby -- would indicate that they enjoyed being treated like VIPs.
But then, who doesn't?