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Stevie Wonder, Gilberto Gil give Rio Christmas cheer

RIO DE JANEIRO--U.S. singer Stevie Wonder joined Brazil's Gilberto Gil late Tuesday for a massive free Christmas concert on Rio's Copacabana beach attended by half a million people.

“Tudo bem?” (Everything alright?) Wonder shouted out to the crowd in Portuguese after being led on stage by his sons.

Dressed in a golden suit, the blind singer began his set with “What a Wonderful World,” then performed hits like “I Just Called to Say I Love You,” “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” and a cover of Michael Jackson's “The Way You Make Me Feel.”

Earlier, Gil opened the show with “Realce” and “A Novidade” on a stage set with the exclusive Copacabana Palace Hotel as a backdrop.

“Good night Rio, Merry Christmas. Thank you for the gift of your presence,” he said.

Up to a million spectators had been initially expected, but police estimates cited in local media put the number at 450,000 to half a million people who braved sweltering temperatures around 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) on one of the hottest evenings of the year.

During a benefit concert a week ago, Wonder and Gil performed for thousands of people who paid a US$400 entry fee each.

Rio is expecting to host 752,000 tourists for its lavish New Year's Eve celebrations.

Throughout the Southern hemisphere's summer season, which began on Dec. 21 and ends in March, about 3.2 billion tourists are expected to flock to the city and spend US$2.6 billion, according to Tourism Ministry figures.

For February's Carnival, the state government hopes 900,000 tourists will visit the city and spend about US$665 million.

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U.S. musician Stevie Wonder, right, and Brazilian musician Gilberto Gil perform at Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday, Dec. 25.(AP)

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