Concert Review: Steve Winwood at the Beacon Theater (New York City)

Steve Winwood began his career as a teenager at Great Barr School where he became part of the Birmingham blues scene. He backed people like Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley & Chuck Berry before joining the Spencer Davis Group (1963-1967) at age 14. Winwood co wrote the Spencer Davis hits Gimmie Some Lovin & I'm A Man playing organ & singing on the records.

In 1967 he formed the great band Traffic (1967-1974 / 1994) with Jim Capaldi, Dave Mason & Chris Wood. Winwood' Traffic classic works include the songs Feelin' Alright, Paper Sun, Freedom Writer, Empty Pages, the instrumental Glad & the ultimate classics Dear Mr. Fantasy & The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys. In 1968 he also played organ on Jimi Hendrix classic Voo Doo Chile as well as some other tracks on Electric Ladyland.

In 1969 if this wasn't enough Winwood formed the super group Blind Faith with Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker & Rich Grech. This classic album included Winwood's Can't Find My Way Home & Had To Cry Today. In the late seventies he began a successful solo career that produced two number one U.S. songs (Higher Love & Roll With It) & six top ten U.S. hits (While You See a Chance, Valerie, The Finer Things, Don't You Know What the Night Can Do). 

His solo career also has produced three top ten albums Back In the High Life (1986), Arc of a Diver (1981) & the number one Roll With It (1988).

Winwood reunited with Traffic to play Woodstock 94 & toured with a new album. He later reunited with Eric Clapton in 2008 playing an incredible three sold out nights at Madison Square Garden in New York City. An album & DVD was also released. The two collaborated on a new song- Dirty City, from Winwood's Nine Lives album in 2009.

In 2007 his solo album Nine Lives was released & reached #12 on the billboard charts. Winwood has also produced & done session work with countless people (George Harrison, David Gilmour, Billy Joel, the Grateful Dead, Christine McVie, Lou Reed, Marianne Faithful & Rober Palmer to name a few.

Last night Winwood put on an incredible performance at New York's Beacon Theater, one of his four NY/NJ area shows this week. The multi instrumentalist played his electric organ for most of the night, stepping out front to play guitar on the Blind Faith classic Can't Find My Way Home & Dirty City in the early part of the show.

For the most part Winwood played older vintage songs from his early days, while just covering solo songs from his last two albums with the exception of Higher Love which closed out the show prior to the encores. His band consisted of a four musicians including Guitarist José Neto and multi-instrumentalist Paul Booth, a drummer & percussionist rounded out the band. The songs were mostly extended versions of the originals with lots of solos & Winwood allowing the musicians to expand their instrumental parts.

Winwood's vocals sounded great & his versatility as a musician phenomenal. He soared on his organ with some great arrangements on the old Spencer Davis & Traffic tunes. He did some great guitar work on Dirty City & Dear Mr. Fantasy showing how good of a guitar player he is, which is often overlooked.

To me Dear Mr. Fantasy & Low Spark are worth the price of admission alone, & tonight they certainly did not disappoint. I also want to point out how much I enjoyed the psychedelic part of the Traffic song Pearly Queen. All we needed was a light show, it was very sixties.

I thought that the extended version of Light Up Or Leave Me Alone went on a bit too long & wished there was more time for more of his solo songs from the eighties. Winwood kept the stage simple, no bass player, no piano & no female back up singers which took a bit away from some of the great arrangements on the songs we are familiar with All in all it was a great show that ended too quickly, especially when you anticipate so much from Winwoods incredible library of great songs.

May 23rd 2012- Steve Winwood Set List
I'm A Man (Spencer Davis Group)
We're All Looking
Cant Find My Way Home (Blind Faith)
Dirty City
Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys (Traffic)
Empty Pages (Traffic)
Pearly Queen (Traffic)
Light Up Or Leave Me Alone (Traffic)
Higher Love

encores: Dear Mr. Fantasy (Traffic)
Gimmie Some Lovin' (Spencer Davis Group)


D Fitzgerald said…
Steve gave a great performance and had a fabulous band accompanying him. It is nice to see him play in a more intimate venue.

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