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Steve Winwood at the Fox Theatre, 5 Things To Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

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Few artists have reached the same kind of “Higher Love” with music as Steve Winwood.

The voice of the Spencer Davis Group hit “Gimme Some Lovin’” at the age of 15, the British-born singer and multi-instrumentalist went on to fame with Traffic and Blind Faith before going solo in 1977, racking up solo hits such as “Higher Love,” “While You See A Chance,” “Back In The High Life Again,” “Valerie” and more while notching two Grammy Awards and a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction.

Winwood is still at it, too. His latest album, “Greatest Hits Live,” spans his career and showcases a performing acumen honed by nearly 55 years of playing onstage...

• Winwood, 69. hopes the live album illustrates the approach he prefers for bringing his material to the concert stage. “What I’ve tried to do, and with the people in the various bands I’ve played -- particularly with the band I’ve been working with in the last 10, 15 years or so -- is we try and reinvent some of the songs that I’m known for and I’m expected to play,” he explains by phone. “It’s more interesting to us, and we hope it’s more interesting to the listener. I think it’s a bit more than just the live version of what’s on the record.”

• Though it’s a quintet, Winwood’s current band is patterned after organ trios he grew up loving, with him playing bass pedals as well as keyboards. “There aren’t too many people who play in this style,” Winwood notes. “I’m a bit of a control freak, so I feel that I can control the band by playing the bass as well. The bass lines are much more simplified, and it creates a space and it also makes the rhythm guitar much more crucial. The Doors used a keyboard bass, too, and it always worked and had an interesting sound to me. I’m very lucky to have been working for a long time with Jose Neto, who combines the rock of (Jimi) Hendrix and Jimmy Page with Brazilian harmonies and rhythms. It’s a great combination.”

• Winwood has adopted a new outlook to touring over the years; He likes to play but doesn’t hit the road in the same manner he has in the past. “I can’t really do the very long tours, three or four months at a time,” Winwood acknowledges. “It’s just by age; After three, four weeks it’s enough for me. I need to rest. But I’m still keen to play; I’ve been doing it since I was 14 years old. I’ve never really done anything else.”

• Via his bands and a solo career that began 41 years ago, Winwood has also accumulated a broad and diverse fan base that can be a challenge to serve. “It makes for a slightly unusual demographic,” Winwood says. “I remember at some point in the 90s there were people who were following me for my work in the 80s who weren’t familiar with either Traffic or Spencer Davis and didn’t know that I was the sang person that sang ‘Gimme Some Lovin’’ or the same person that sang ‘Can’t Find My Way Home.’ I do specifically remember one person coming up to me after a show to say, ‘I loved the show, but why did you finish with a cover of a Blues Brothers song?’ (laughs) I’m not sure exactly what my response was to that, but it’s stuck with me a bit. So I have these different sort of levels and phases I’ve gone through, and one phase isn’t always familiar with the other phases.”

• Looking forward, Winwood says he’s “quite interested in certain forms of dance music. I think the next great composers will be DJs and producers. I think young people deliberately make it very complicated with all the genres and sub-genres because they don’t want older people to understand it, but the more I learn about it, I’m getting quite interested in it.” As for what this will mean for his own music, Winwood adds, “It’s a project that’s sort of ongoing, and I haven’t really reached a conclusion for it yet. And it did have to go on the back burner because I’ve been doing quite a bit of touring lately, and it’s a bit hard to carry on doing (new music) while I’m touring -- it is for me, at any rate.”

If You Go:

• Steve Winwood and Lily Winwood

• 8 p.m. Monday, Feb. 26

• Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit.

• Tickets are $30-$199.50.

• Call 313-471-6611 or visit 313Presents.com.

Web Site: www.313Presents.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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