30 September 2005
Paramount Theatre, Denver, CO
I'm not exactly sure why I decided to drive to Denver to see this artist. I suppose I've always liked several of his songs, I acknowledge how much of a pioneer he was on the Hammond B-3 organ, and I realize that this artist doesn't tour very often at all.
The B-3 is an instrument full of feeling, and evocative of emotion. I'm a fan of several B-3 greats, including Micheal Finnigan, Booker T. Jones, Gregg Allman, and Steve Winwood.
15 minutes after scheduled start time, Winwood walked out in a long-sleeved light shirt, and took his place next to his workbench.
After two songs I didn't recognize, Stevie launched into the majestic opening to my favorite Traffic song, "Empty Pages". Lyrically, the song is not overly impressive; musically, the chorus is.
Steve starved the setlist of his very, very successful solo material. So, I didn't get to hear my favorite, "While You See A Chance", that I remember hearing on the radio when I was a sophomore in high school. Nor did I get to hear "Arc Of A Diver", "Valerie" "Higher Love", "The Finer Things" "Freedom Overspill", "Split Decision", "Roll With It", "Don't You Know What The Night Can Do?", or "Holding On". And, no "I'm Winning".....oh, wait, that's Santana.
He also skipped "Gimme Some Lovin'" and "I'm A Man" from his Spencer Davis days, as well as "40,000 Headman", "Pearly Queen" from his Traffic era.
He did, however sing "Back In The High Life", while playing mandolin. Steve, in fact, stepped out from behind his B-3 only three times. He grabbed an acoustic guitar for "Can't Find My Way Home", and an electric for "Dear Mr. Fantasy".
I honestly don't find Winwood's B-3 work as a match for the likes of Micheal Finnigan, but he comes close with "Glad", with which he opened his second set, utilizing what seemed like to be the exaxt same facial expressions as those he used when performing the song live in the early 1970s, on a classic video I saw several years ago. When performing "Glad/Freedom", Steve looks as if he's operating a control panel for heavy machinery, often flipping switches, adjusting levels, thinking about his next move.....
After "Rainmaker", Winwood ended his second set with a half-hour long "Low Spark And High Heeled Boys", and encored with "Crossroads".
In all, I appreciate Winwood's unpretentiousness on stage--he and his four-piece backing band are as if they are in a living room, jamming for music's sake. I was also impressed by how he, for the entire show, played all of the bass parts with his left hand! That being said, I can't help but wonder if that style may detract from his full potential as a keyboard player.
Almost the entire setlist was funky (musically, I mean).
[***] - Steven T.
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