Steve Winwood’s Sunday night concert at the Michigan Theater
found many former hippies – most of whom are now 50-something with
a house in the suburbs and a retirement plan – shaking what their
mamas gave them to the sweet sounds of the man who epitomizes the
blue-eyed soul genre.

Winwood, himself an aging Boomer, showed no sign of slowing down
during his two-set-plus-double-encore extravaganza. Backed by an
exceptional band composed of a guitarist, a
saxophonist/flutist/keyboardist, a percussionist and a drummer,
Winwood treated the audience to hits that span the length of his
40-year musicianship as he covered material from the Spencer Davis
Group, Traffic, Blind Faith and his prolific solo career, including
singles from his remarkable 2003 studio release, About Time.

Throughout the two-and-a-half hour show, Winwood performed songs
that revealed his vocal and instrumental versatility in ways unseen
since his 1986 Grammy-winning album, Back in the High Life. His
velvety voice howled soulfully on “Can’t Find My Way Home” and his
fingers danced nimbly across the organ in “Empty Pages,” while his
guitar wailed with raw emotion on the intense “Dear Mr. Fantasy.”
Winwood displayed the chameleon-like adaptability to different
instruments and the flair for fusing Delta Blues, Psychedelia,
Funk, Rock, Celtic and Afro-Caribbean that are testaments to his
acclaim as a groundbreaking artist.

Highlights of the concert include Winwood’s pathos-filled vocal
performance on “40,000 Headmen,” his mandolin playing on the
redemption-embracing “Back In the High Life,” and the climactic
“Low Spark of High Heeled Boys,” an 11-minute opus that launched
Traffic into ’70s mainstream radio. Equally fascinating was the
five minute drums-versus-congas battle delivered in a fashion
reminiscent of Eric Weissburg’s and Steve Mandell’s “Dueling

The show’s no-frills approach allowed the audience to
concentrate solely on the music – a single spotlight accentuated
Winwood’s handiwork on the organ and guitar and illuminated his
face while he seduced the crowd song after song with silky vocals
and multi-faceted instrumentals that left them dazed with

Blushing and smiling humbly while thanking the audience after
multiple standing ovations following the final number, “Gimme Some
Lovin’,” Winwood didn’t at all look the part of Musical Legend. His
concert, however, proved otherwise – he is one blue-eyed boy who
damn sure knows how to rock.

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