Concert Review: Steve Winwood

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Rock, pop and rhythm and blues legend Steve Winwood and his band performed a full, satisfying set list before an enthralled crowd Saturday night at Troutdale’s idyllic outdoor McMenamins Edgefield. Our roving music reporter, Cynthia Orlando, was there!

Steve Winwood at the Edgefield: a flawless night with a rock legend

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With a repertoire that spans decades, the Rock n’ Roll Hall-of-Fame-er had no shortage of material with which to wow fans. Under dark clouds and threatening skies he seemed to tempt the weather gods while setting the mood for a night filled with great music, opening with the ethereal “Rainmaker,” an old Traffic song.

His setlist also included a rousing and fabulous performance of “I’m a Man” from his early years with Spencer Davis group, and the soft, jazz-feel of “Fly” from his “Nine Lives” release. Looking casually dapper in a simple long-sleeved white shirt, Winwood didn’t say too much but smiled and grinned a lot and addressed the crowd about three songs in, saying warmly: “Well thank you very much, and good evening. It’s great to be in this corner of the world…we have music of a mixed vintage for you tonight.”

About Steve Winwood

An influential musician and esteemed member of bands Traffic, Blind Faith and The Spencer Davis Group, Steve Winwood went solo in the late 70s. He released “Arc of a Diver” in 1980, playing all instruments himself and garnering a hit single with his melodic and uplifting “While You See a Chance.”

He released “Nine Lives” in 2008 on Columbia Records and it opened at #12 on Billboard’s 200 album chart. Winwood is married, has four children, currently resides in Nashville and also owns a home in Gloucestershire, England.

Indelible classics delivered without a hitch

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It could be challenging to hit the same high notes you did at 20 some 40+ years later, but Saturday night Winwood delivered a flawless performance of his poignant “Can’t Find My Way Home” (Blind Faith circa 1969) – the conclusion brought the house to their feet. He was accompanied by a superb 4-member band (guitar, percussion, sax and flute, drums) in a seamless night with nary a hesitation or glitch. And if there’s one thing you can say about McMenamins Edgefield (besides a consistent lack of any dark beer on the premises, that is), their sound system is always impeccable. Let’s hear it for the sound technicians that make it all happen.

There were probably many in attendance who never hoped to hear Traffic classics like “Low Spark of High Heeled Boys,” “Empty Pages” or “Medicated Goo,” but it was a night for tempting the fates and the weather gods and for delightful, blast-from-the-past surprises. “Low Spark,” for example, afforded lots of time for individual solos and showmanship including lead guitar and sizzling sax passages.

The wonderful “Higher Love,” a 1986 hit single, was another huge crowd sensation of the night. A minor quibble: more songs from the “Roll With It” and “Back in the High Life” era could have, would have, fit right in. Then again, Winwood seems to be on a roll showcasing his many musical gems and genres on this tour, and it’s hard to argue with a song like “Dear Mr. Fantasy” which afforded him the opportunity to remind everyone of his electric guitar prowess.

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Playing for a mere 90 minutes, fans were more than ready to pour on the sugar with a standing ovation. Winwood reciprocated with an encore that included “Gimme Some Lovin’,” another Spencer Davis throwback. Well done, Mr. Winwood, well done.

You can find his music on i-Tunes, or at Steve’s site HERE.

Singer-songwriter Cris Jacobs opened the show with an engaging acoustic setlist of his own. From Baltimore, Jacobs entertained the crowd with appealing blues and folk numbers, great vocals and deft guitar playing that included a cigar box guitar. At intermission, concertgoers could be overheard admiring his style.

You can find his music online HERE.

Find out more about Cynthia Orlando and follow her on TWITTER.

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