The Legends of Laurel Canyon
1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die
It’s So Hard To Tell Who’s Going To Love You The Best
Transfiguration of Vincent
Christmas in the Heart
Glitter and Doom Live
Let It Roll: The Best of George Harrison
Secret, Profane & Sugarcane
Playing for Change
Steve Winwood literally went the distance in this spectatcular show at L.A.’s House of Blues this Saturday night, with two solid sets, giving the mostly middle-aged audience more than the fix they came for.
Steve’s beautiful voice, often compared to Ray Charles, has lost little of its range and none of its charm. Like most rockers who have reached their late 50’s, he was careful not to test the limits of his range, but gave the impression he would have done just fine at that. Even with the vocal constraints he put on himself, his range remains beyond the reach of most vocalists half his age.
He played most of his familiar tunes, though some us die-hard fans hoped for more obscure tunes from his Traffic days. Carefully crafted introductions kept the audience wondering what his next tune would be in many cases. As we listened to song after song, we were reminded of what a great songwriter this man is. He teased the audience with his 12 string mandolin before going into Back in The High Life.
Interestingly, he played more tunes from the Blind Faith album (the British Supergroup which featured him alongside Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker, and which this author had the pleasure of seeing at their only U.S. appearance) than any other; specifically Can’t Find My Way Home, Presence of the Lord and Had To Cry Today.
Gimme Some Lovin’, the song that put him on the map when he was in his mid teens, got the audience fired up so much that even those who had previously managed to resist dancing came out of their shells, dancing and jumping. He also played I’m A Man from his Spencer Davis days.
A slightly re-worked Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys was captivating, and he also played Rainmaker, from the same album, accompanied by special guest Reebop Kwaku Baah, who had made the original recording with him.
Unlike many solo-name stars, Steve was not content to let his fellow musicians remain on the sidelines, as they had many opportunities to demonstrate their own musical prowess. Higher Love took great advantage of his percussion battery, consisting of Karl Vanden Bossche on congas and more, and Richard Bailey on drums. Bailey’s solo’s were breathtaking. Guitarist Hose Neto kept a low profile early on, but broke out as the night progressed, and showed himself to be quite a player. Reminiscent of the late Chris Wood (Traffic), Paul Booth alternated between saxophone and flute, occasionally stepping in on keyboards and keyboard bass while Winwood played guitar. Conspicuously absent from the stage was a bass guitar player – Winwood handled both keys and keyboard bass for most of the night.
Also noticeably absent was material from the first two Traffic Albums, other than Dear Mr. Fantasy. His guitar solo on that tune reminded us of what a powerful guitarist he is, playing through his Classic Fender amp with an almost perfect distortion, and reminding us of what it was like seeing him trade licks with Clapton in the early 1970’s.
The greatest pleasure was the announcement, after 1-1/2 hours of playing, that the band was taking a break before playing a second set. Few Acts have played two sets at the House of Blues in recent years. The second set continued past House of Blues’ Midnight curfew time, completing 2-1/2 hours of great music, and a great time.
Reported by Andy Roth