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Concert Reviews:
Steve Winwood gives fans some lovin' at the Fillmore
 

By GARY GRAFF
for Journal Register Newspapers

» See more SOUND CHECK

DETROIT -- Steve Winwood's no dummy.

With 50 years of showbiz experience behind him, the 64-year-old rock icon knows what the people who come to see him want. And on Wednesday night, May 16, at the Fillmore Detroit, that's exactly what he delivered -- albeit with enough twists, turns, tweaks and contemporary references to make the 12-song, hour-and-45-minute show more than just an exercise in nostalgia.

With a crack but untraditional band -- guitar, percussion, drums and reeds, with no bass guitar -- alongside, Winwood gave his older classics some fresh forays into improvisation, whether it was the organ and saxophone solos he added to his Spencer Davis Group hit "I'm a Man" or the expansive treatments of Traffic favorites such as "The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys," a sped-up version of "Empty Pages," a polyrhythmic rendition of "Pearly Queen" and a lengthy jam on "Light Up or Leave Me Alone," during which every band member received a solo spot.

A long, rhythmic lead-in was a tasteful addition to Blind Faith's "Can't Find My Way Home," while the arrangement of his 1986 smash "Higher Love" accented the song's calypso underpinning, though it did miss the fuller instrumentation of the studio recording. And a trio of tracks from Winwood's last album, 2009's "Nine Lives" -- "Fly," "At Times We Do Forget" and "Dirty City" -- reminded the Fillmore crowd that he isn't confined to his heritage.

But Wednesday's encores certainly blasted to the past. A a trio rendition of "Dear Mr. Fantasy" showed off Winwood's estimable guitar skills, while the fail-safe Spencer Davis party anthem "Gimme Some Lovin' " flashed back to the still boyish-looking Winwood's days as a teen star, mixing unbridled energy with plenty of experience that at this juncture only enriches his repertoire.

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