Steve Winwood at the Paramount Theatre, 11/20/12 (photos, review)By Mike Long | November 21st, 2012 | 1 Comment »
Steve Winwood has nearly 50 years in music as a member of bands like Traffic and Blind Faith. The English songwriter has played and/or recorded with artists as varied as Jimi Hendrix, Lou Reed, Eddie Harris and Chaka Khan — all on top of a successful solo career. The man is allowed to take as many victory lap tours as his remarkable voice will allow.
Winwood and his four-piece backing band opened their Paramount Theatre set on Tuesday night with the 1966 Spencer Davis Group hit, “I’m A Man.” It’s the song that announced him as the first of (now many) British blue-eyed soul singers (while still a teenager). This version featured improvisational moments, as would most of the 12-song set. For the most part, Winwood played his signature instrument, a Hammond B3 organ (possibly one of the greatest sounding keyboards ever invented).
After a few tunes from his last studio record, 2008’s “Nine Lives,” the crowd came alive for Winwood’s best contribution to Blind Faith, “Can’t Find My Way Home.” Despite Winwood’s huge success in the ‘80s as a hit-maker, his best material features songs longer than six or seven minutes. He reminded the audience of this soon enough with a truncated, but still lengthy, version of Traffic’s “The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys,” then segued into another Traffic selection, a bouncy, breezy “Empty Pages.”
“Back in the High Life Again,” while a crowd favorite, seemed to be a lull in the set. “Light Up or Leave Me Alone” slowed the pace even more with solos (almost too long) from each of Winwood’s ace bandmates. The regular set closer, a “more cowbell,” Caribbean version of “Higher Love,” seemed to revive the crowd’s energy. It was the encore, though, where the show hit its peak. It featured Winwood on guitar and his finest vocal performance of the evening on “Dear Mister Fantasy.” Winwood then sent the faithful home happy, closing with “Gimme Some Lovin’,” his other Spencer Davis Group hit.
Mike Long is a Longmont-based writer and comedian and a regular contributor to Reverb.