Steve Winwood at Shepherd’s Bush Empire
Steve Winwood refers to himself tonight as “rock ‘n’ roll vintage” and it would be a struggle to find a more accurate summary of the Birmingham musician’s tale. Winwood first came to pre-eminence as the lead singer of The Spencer Davis Group, who had their first number one with Keep on Running in 1965. He left to form Traffic and later the supergroup Blind Faith (with Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker), before going solo in 1977.
At the Empire he runs through a selection of career highlights, though sadly not Valerie (heavily sampled for the Eric Prydz mega-hit Call On Me) or Arc of a Diver. In all there are only 14 tracks, but at an average of nine minutes each, the show stretches to over two hours. Each track is accompanied by several minutes of jamming and this could have lost the audience had the band not been so stupendously impressive. Of particular note were the blurred guitar licks from Brazilian Jose Neto and the multi-instrumentalism of saxophonist Paul Booth.
However, it’s Winwood’s night and he alternates between Hammond organ, guitar and banjo. He’s in fine voice and it’s barely credible that this youthful looking man had his first major hit some 48 years ago. The 80s soulboy synthesiser hits Higher Love and Back in the High Life Again are rousingly received, but it’s the even older material that evokes the loudest responses. Traffic’s Dear Mr. Fantasy, Blind Faith’s Can’t Find My Way Home and the encore of Spencer Davis Group’s Gimme Some Lovin’ have the equally vintage devotees out of their seats. It’s a soothing evening, at times akin to loafing in an intimate jazz club being mollified by one of the most distinctive and powerful vocalists of all. One that all present would be only too pleased to experience all over again.
Photos: Lucia Hrdá
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Watch the live video for Gimme Some Lovin’ here: