OUT & ABOUT: Stevie Wonder Vs. The Pope

by Denise Clay
If you were around City Hall’s Dilworth Plaza on Monday, you probably saw a whole lot more people there than usual.

That’s because Stevie Wonder was stopping by.

Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder

Wonder, whose “Songs In The Key Of Life” tour returns to the Wells Fargo Center on Oct. 7, surprised Philadelphians with a free concert and question-and-answer session on Monday. According to everyone I’ve talked to, it was a good time and the video I’ve seen of it shows Wonder was in good musical form.

(But then again, “Songs” is one of the only albums I have where I can click on any track, and it’s a good one. If you get a chance to go see this show, for which tickets are on sale now on ComcastTix, go. You won’t be disappointed. I saw it when it came here in November.)

Now, what made of interest to me, other than the presence of a multi-Grammy Award-winning artist performing a free concert to an enthusiastic crowd, is what didn’t happen when Wonder came to Dilworth Plaza.

Not one street was closed. No sections of the city were blocked off.

You might have been a little inconvenienced if you got off of the Broad Street Subway at City Hall and had to wade through the people to get to your destination, but you were still able to pick up the train at your regular stop.

While there may have been cattle chutes to keep things in line, there was no large fence roping off the City Hall area.

No colleges or schools were shut down because of Wonder’s presence.

In other words, the security didn’t get completely insane … unlike what’s going to happen the last week of September when Pope Francis shows up.

Don’t get me wrong. I know Stevie Wonder isn’t the Pope. He’s had more million-selling albums and while his hairline is a lot further back than it used to be, Stevie Wonder doesn’t wear a funny hat.

But I do know that Mayor Michael Nutter is about to seriously inconvenience a lot of people the weekend the Pope shows up. And I’m still trying to figure out the reasons why.

For example, why can’t I get on the subway at City Hall? The Broad Street Line doesn’t even go toward the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. In fact, none of the SEPTA underground transport lines do. The Market Frankford Line goes along Market Street, as does the trolley system.

And tell me again why I can’t go to the Whole Foods near the Barnes Foundation Museum, other than the fact it’s unnecessarily expensive?

And for that matter, why can’t I go to the Barnes Foundation Museum?

I get it. No one wants to be the one that has to call the Vatican and explain that the Pope is in Temple University Hospital because some yahoo decided he wanted to make a name for himself, but some of the security precautions that are going to be taken for the Pope’s visit make absolutely no sense. We don’t take many of these precautions when the President comes to call.

So if we can put on a free Stevie Wonder concert in Dilworth Park, or the Fourth of July concert on the Parkway, or the upcoming Budweiser “Made In America” show without all of this nonsense, why can’t we host the Pope without it?

Even Stevie Wonder can see this is overkill….

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