Could it be that for the past six years, Steve Winwood has been resting on laurels? When we last reviewed him – in June 2013 – he was playing pretty much the same set. With no new album since 2008, but with a great solo back catalogue to plunder, that’s a great shame.
And tonight here he was again peddling the earlier years, Spencer Davis Group to Blind Faith via Traffic. The one concession to his eighties output – ‘Higher Love’ – was even a little laboured towards the end.
Some of his eighties stuff would go down well in an arena situation – where were songs like ‘Valerie’ and ‘Talking Back To The Night’? Instead, switching effortlessly from Hammond to Stratocaster, we got the faithful old chestnuts ‘Gimme Some Lovin” and ‘Keep On Running’. And, sadly, Steve never interacted with the audience. It was almost as if – even with an hour set – it was a rush to the finish line and then to the tour bus for a cocoa and the business news.
Donald Fagen on the other hand offered a very broad sweep of Steely Dan “reeling” through the years. It was clear from an early ‘Bodhisattva’ that it was the three girl singers – “The Danettes” – who would do much of the heavy vocal lifting. But like Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull), Fagen has realised that to offset the lack of vocal power you can also compensate with increased band interplay.
And this is where this gig excelled. Four horns and a tight rhythm section showed their mettle on ‘Green Earrings’ (from Royal Scam) whilst, throughout, Jon Herington had his work cut out reprising the work of the many great guitar players who passed through the ranks. He acquitted himself admirably.
The setlist would certainly raise debates amongst the casual fan as certain key songs were left out and maybe tunes were chosen for vocal range and Danettes compatibility, rather than audience expectation. However, there were many highlights. ‘Josie’ for example was supreme and that end play-out could have gone on all night.
Fagen himself was a little more engaging in a U.S. rock and roll sort of way, evidently buoyed up by the adoring crowd, but offering little in the way of explanation. If this gig never really did full justice to the Steely songbook it reiterated that Fagen and Becker were responsible for fashioning some timeless, instantly recognisable classics. As relevant now on a streaming playlist as in a wine bar. And, incredibly, after their 1972 album debut this irresistible meld of pop, rock, jazz and funk was all done and dusted by 1980.
Setlist: Cubano Chant (intro) 2. Bodhisattva 3. Hey Nineteen 4. Black Friday 5. Aja 6. Green Earrings 7. Black Cow 8.Time Out Of Mind 9. Rikki Don’t Lose That Number 10. Kid Charlemagne 11. Dirty Work 12. Peg 13. Babylon Sisters 14. Keep That Same Old Feeling 15. Josie 16. My Old School Encore: 17. Reelin’ In The Years 18. A Man Ain’t Supposed to Cry
Review by David Randall
David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 20 September 2020.
UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 22 September 2020.
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