Washington Post: Sept 28, 1997, concert

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A Pretty Darn Low Spark from Steve Winwood

During Steve Winwood's Sunday performance at the 9:30 club, no one was hurt. A well-groomed, relatively smokeless crowd enjoyed an evening of R&B-flavored hits from Winwood's career, both solo and with the Spencer Davis Group and Traffic. His accomplished eight-piece band smoothly reproduced "The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys," embellished with Afro-Caribbean rhythms and Winwood's indulgent piano interlude. "Valerie" was a favorite, while the rendition of "Family Affair" brought out a mild, asexual side of Sly Stone, heretofore unrealized. Throughout, Winwood cleanly navigated a treacherous channel, escaping unsullied by rock-and-roll's sexy danger, gospel's implied spiritual commitment, the emotional yaw of a balladeer, or the showman's glamour. It was delightful music to vend beer by.

But given a flat set of expectations, there was fun music to dance to. The encore of "Back in the High Life Again" incorporated mandolin and viola, and "Gimme Some Lovin' " proved that Winwood sure can pound the Hammond organ. Tiresome factors like relevance and inspiration were left to others. The evening was about nice things. Nice people in nice clothes, nice guy with nice tunes.

-- Bob Massey

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Page created November 11, 1997.
Last updated November 11, 1997.
© 1997 by the author; reproduce only for non-commercial purposes and with full attribution.