tue 21/11/2017

Steve Winwood, Eventim Apollo review - multi-talented performer redesigns his back catalogue | reviews, news & interviews

Steve Winwood, Eventim Apollo review - multi-talented performer redesigns his back catalogue

Steve Winwood, Eventim Apollo review - multi-talented performer redesigns his back catalogue

Six decades of rock, soul and R&B revisited

Play us a tune: the eclectic Steve Winwood

The precocious Steve Winwood joined the Spencer Davis Group when he was 14, when the Sixties themselves were still young, and hasn’t really stopped ever since. True, it has been nearly a decade since his last album of new material, Nine Lives, but he has toured with Eric Clapton and Tom Petty, pops up at assorted festivals and live events, and has put together a highly capable live band that can bend his songs into shapes you might never have thought possible. His voice and abilities on guitar and Hammond B3 organ (a wonderfully quaint instrument which looks like a small wardrobe) remain uncannily undimmed.

His current batch of dates takes him around Europe and then to the States, with a set that ranges across his entire career, though not always in a recognisable fashion. For instance, a sizeable chunk of this Hammersmith show was consumed by a version of “Light Up or Leave Me Alone”, originally recorded by Winwood’s band Traffic in 1971, but here briskly dismembered and used as a platform for multiple solos, from sax to congas to drums. Virtually all that was left of the original was Winwood calling out “I said light up!” in between the instrumental breaks.

Some of the instrumental passages needed vigorous pruning

In his career, Winwood has done everything from pumping R&B to rambling acid reveries to the sleek Eighties funk-pop of Back In the High Life and Roll With It, and he managed to squeeze a bit of everything in here. He opened with the seething groove of “I’m A Man”, his 1967 hit with Spencer Davis (and quite possibly the precursor of the Stones’ "Sympathy for the Devil"), and then detoured forward four decades to “Fly”, from Nine Lives. The brief heyday of Blind Faith was revived via the ever-exquisite “Can’t Find My Way Home” and a bluesy blast through “Had To Cry Today”, which evolved into a communal jam led by the interweaving guitars of Winwood and Jose Neto. Buddy Miles’s “Them Changes” was a blowsy jazz-funk romp.

Winwood’s eclectic tastes give the band oodles of scope, in fact possibly a bit too much, since some of the lengthy instrumental passages cried out for some vigorous pruning. Excellent though his musicians are (not least saxophonist Paul Booth, who peeled off fluent solos on soprano, alto and tenor), it often felt as if they were overloading some fairly basic musical structures with far more technical expertise than they could comfortably support. Neto’s sharp, staccato guitar style comes from the jazz-fusion end of the spectrum, and doesn’t quite fit with the spacey soul and blues dimension of Winwood’s work, as was evident in an otherwise imperious run-through of “The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys”.

There were more Traffic-era larks with a funked-up “Pearly Queen” and a powerfully surging “Dear Mr Fantasy”, where Winwood ran amok with a Stratocaster, before they rang the curtain down with a tumultuous rampage through “Gimme Some Lovin’” (with added vocals by Winwood’s daughter Lilly, who had opened the evening with her own acoustic set). Some more of that old floor-quaking R&B stomp and a little less of the fusion noodling would have been very welcome.

 

They rang the curtain down with a tumultuous rampage through 'Gimme Some Lovin’

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Share this article

Comments

Your review was spot on! Too jazzy for our liking but what an amazing guitarist Winwood is and still a great voice. Band were so together - at first I thought this is going to be a great gig - some nice jazz funk grooves but then too many jazz solos such a shame but nevertheless Steve Winwood is still up there with the greats in my opinion.

Very disappointed with show last night. Brilliant musicians but not much of the Steve Winwood that I knew. Best song of night was the last one of Gimme somma lovin which had us all on our feet. Many of audience didn't enter theatre until after his daughter finished her set. Waste of money.

Add me to the list who were disappointed. When there were extended bongo and drum solos on the very first song, I knew we were in trouble. Why a legend like Winwood would let the drummer and bongo player drown out the rest of the band is beyond me. He should also be required to play Roll With It at every show.

Steve Winwood can do no wrong for me. Sure I can be picky in a couple of areas of last night's show (daughter Lily's harmony on "Higher Love" got drowned, and maybe "Light Up" got a bit over-indulgent), but at 69 Winwood sounds like he's 19, and his musicianship on guitar and organ is sensational.I'm scoring last night as 9/10, a tiny tad below Traffic at Brentwood in 1994 (never have discovered why Brentwood featured with London, Birmingham & Glasgow as one of the four UK venues for the "Far From Home" tour).

Firstly I have a confession to make. I have followed Steve's career from 1964 in the SDG and I personally prefer Steve's early bluesy stuff (Every little bit hurts, It hurts me so, Together 'til the end of time,) which fior me perfectly showcases his vocal and keyboard skills. However I have still enjoyed all his various musical guises over the years which his live show covers so well. Yes, the Jazz influences may be a little too dominant but that didn't spoil my enjoyment. However, call me a dinosaur if you like but I would love to see Steve perform in an intimate venue performing those old bluesy numbers.

First time visit to the Apollo and was impressed with this venue. Loved the show too, especially how the musicians were showcased in the solo spots. Many thanks to Steve, the band & Lilly. The only downside to the evening were the selfish idiots continually holding up their phones/ tablets etc. taking pictures & videos. Just what you need isn`t it, an electric blur of light directly in front of while you are trying to appreciate the show.

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters