Steve Winwood Wows The Wellmont
Rock Legend's Power on Display in New Jersey
A SoundPress.net Archive Article by Rich and Laura Lynch

In awe! Great!

That's how we felt following Steve Winwood's Inauguration Day concert on January 20, 2009 at the splendidly revamped Wellmont Theatre in downtown Montclair, New Jersey.

Steve Winwood in Concert
Steve Winwood and band onstage in Montclair, New Jersey.

We are lucky that the term limits rules of American presidential politics don't apply to the world of music. True to his English heritage - Winwood is more like a musical monarch whose benevolent rock 'n roll reign continues to this day - pleasing the capacity crowd assembled at the venerable Essex County venue.

Steve Winwood is a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who at a young age had an interest in swing and Dixieland jazz. Soon Steve was playing drums, guitar and piano. By age fifteen he had performed with some of the blues greats and was a member of the Spencer Davis Group. In that band he co-wrote two of their biggest hits - "Gimme Some Lovin'" and "I'm A Man" - thus launching a successful musical campaign that has won the hearts and minds of admirers around the globe. In addition to a successful solo career, Steve has been in Blind Faith and Traffic.

After over four decades of creating music, Steve still tours and collaborates regularly. His latest record Nine Lives was released in the spring of 2008 and incorporates many of his influences such as blues, jazz, R&B and rock. His aptly titled ninth solo album is earning high approval ratings on the strength of its pleasing earmarks.

Steve Winwood in Concert
Steve Winwood has returned to the forefront with Nine Lives.

A few minutes after eight, Winwood's band - Jose Neto (guitar), Richard Bailey (drums), Karl Vanden Bossche (percussion), and Paul Booth (saxophone/flute/organ) - took their places and started the groove to "Different Light". Steve, casually dressed and smiling brightly - walked across the stage to the keyboards as the song progressed through a funky, jazzy jam with an array of rhythms. Neto was wearing a "Yes We Did" Obama T-shirt in honor of the day's historic events. Winwood's vocals wove their way in and out of the piece laying a strong foundation for the evening's entertainment.

Next up, the classic "I'm A Man" was crisp and concise with expanded instrumentation. Steve was in good voice, the sax solo was solid as was the quick exchange between drums and percussion. The song melded into "Hungry Man" that featured hearty rhythms and succulent solos from the band.

Booth was versatile playing a number of horns, percussion and keyboards. In "Secrets" the flute was the ruling sound in this up-tempo song that included liberal jamming. The opening notes to "Can't Find My Way Back Home" drew cheers as Steve hooked up to an electric guitar. The interpretation was sharp and succinct with fine vocals and vibrant instrumentation.

Steve Winwood in Concert
The versatile Paul Booth added bold sax and brilliant flute.

Winwood greeted the crowd with a thank you and a comment about the lovely old theater, mentioning that they were slipping in songs from the most recent record Nine Lives along with songs from the 60's, 70's and even the 80's - before moving into the edgy "Dirty City" from the new CD. It was a dark, dramatic tune and Steve aptly handled the Clapton (who played on the album's version) leads that are a primary feature of the number.

Returning to the keys, they played a more conservative composition that was slower at the start but subtly built momentum through varied patterns and percussion parts. "Pearly Queen" was an energized exploration with sassy sax. Steve created a bold bottom with the foot pedals on his keyboard - nicely complementing the varied sounds and structures in this song.

A sparkling "Light Up Or Leave Me Alone" was followed by a medley of "The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys" and "Empty Pages" - and all were dynamic as they moved through diverse terrain of melodies, meters and moods. The tunes were tantalizing, technical and tight. Steve and his band closed the set with a lively version of the hit "Higher Love".

It was incumbent upon the band to provide an encore and the victorious Winwood came back out armed with an axe for "Dear Mr. Fantasy" - a fan favorite that was well executed with fabulous fret work. The band jammed for a bit before Steve returned to the keys to close with a rousing, robust version of "Gimme Some Lovin'".

Steve did not give many speeches on Inauguration night; rather he let the music be the primary focus of his on-going tuneful diplomacy - and everyone had a ball!

SETLIST
1. Different Light
2. I'm a Man
3. Hungry Man
4. Secrets
5. Can't Find My Way Back Home
6. Dirty City
7. Fly
8. Pearly Queen
9. Light Up Or Leave Me Alone
10. The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys
11. Empty Pages
12. Higher Love
ENCORE
13. Dear Mr. Fantasy
14. Gimme Some Lovin'

Steve Winwood in Concert
Jose Neto is an instrumental member of Winwood's team.

Related Links: For more information on STEVE WINWOOD and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links -- SteveWinwood.com | Buy Nine Lives

Steve Winwood Nine Lives CD

(Originally Published on January 23, 2009)

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