If Steve Winwood’s only banter tonight included playful reference to both the ‘vintage’ crowd and the vintage music, we didn’t need to worry. The sheer historical potency – and nostalgia – was what the vintage crowd expected and what Winwood delivered.
Starting with the insistent ‘Rainmaker’ closely followed by ‘I’m A Man’, giving Winwood’s Hammond a chance to breathe and the band to stretch out, these were admirable scene setters. One of our best soulful voices, Winwood is also equally content behind the organ or guitar as he led the band through an inevitably cursory cross-section of his musical history. His mutton chop whiskers (perhaps in preparation for Glasto) now detract slightly from an ever youthful image.
A trawl through his Traffic past, the brief Blind Faith (if you couldn’t be there in Hyde Park in 1969 this was possibly the next best thing) and a couple of eighties ‘hits’ were punctuated by some extended set-pieces such as the Traffic songs ‘Low Spark…’ and ‘Light Up And Leave Me Alone’.
Multi-instrumentalist Paul Booth was particularly impressive on sax, flute, organ and backing vocals whilst José Pires de Almeida Neto played exemplary rhythm guitar if less convincing on the solos. Percussionists Richard Bailey (yes, the ace sessionist who graced Jeff Beck’s classic ‘Blow By Blow’ album) and Café da Silva supplemented the use of bass organ pedals to provide a funky undertow throughout.
Given that this was pretty much the ‘Nine Lives’ recording band (from 2008) it’s a shame we didn’t hear more of the newer stuff not least that album’s standout ‘Dirty City’.
Some might also bemoan the lack of ‘Valerie’ and ‘Talking Back To the Night’ (including this writer), but the emphasis tonight was really on the organ and the organic, following an axis from Spencer Davis Group via Traffic and with only a brief nod to those successes in the golden age of MTV.
In full flight, and punctuated by Winwood’s evocative keyboards or gutsy guitar, the band stated the case firmly for vintage rock and, moreover, their leader’s wonderful and enduring place in our collective musical and, yes, now vintage memories.
Review by David Randall
Photos by Simon Dunkerley
David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.
Setlist: Rainmaker /I’m a Man /Fly /At Times We Do Forget /Can’t Find My Way Home / Had To Cry Today /Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys /Empty Pages /Back in the High Life Again /Light Up Or Leave Me Alone /Higher Love /Keep On Running
Encore: Dear Mr. Fantasy/Gimme Some Lovin’
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Each week David Randall presents ‘New to GRTR!’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, with the emphasis on independent artists and labels. During December he replays favourite tracks including power plays featured during the year. This show covers the period January-March and was first broadcast on 1 December 2019.
Power Plays w/c 25 November (Mon-Fri)
Throughout December we are featuring Best of 2019 selections from the GRTR! Reviewers.
Featured Albums w/c 25 November (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 Melodic Rock Featured Albums of 2019
12:00-13:00 Melodic Hard Rock Featured Albums of 2019
14:00-16:00 Singer Songwriter Featured Albums of 2019
Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)
A selection of albums featured in 2019
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