Tribute concerts are tricky events to pull off. You have to strike just the right respectful tone and ensure the performance is strong enough to honour the spirit of the departed. Over the years, I have attended a memorial concert to mark the 10th anniversary of the death of Small Faces frontman Steve Marriott in 2001, and the Concert For George, one year after the death of Beatle George Harrison, in 2002. Traffic founder-member Jim Capaldi, who died two years ago, was a friend of Harrison's, while Paul Weller, who has always worn his Sixties' influences on his sleeve, performed at the Marriott tribute. He was equally keen to help celebrate Capaldi's life and the music he made with Traffic, a group whose ever-changing style and sound perfectly epitomised the late Sixties and earlySeventies.
After moving speeches by Capaldi's widow Aninha and radio presenter Bob Harris, Weller opened with "Paper Sun", Traffic's shiny, psychedelic first single from the Summer of Love, later returning to sing "Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush". Behind the many guest vocalists, the engine room included Jon Lord, of Deep Purple fame, on keyboards; Bill Wyman, ex-Stones, on occasional bass; and a tag-team of Andy Newmark and Simon Kirke on drums. The real coup had been to secure the first UK appearance in decades by Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens). He talked warmly about Capaldi, and added a snatch of his own "Wild World" to his friend's "Man With No Country".
Capaldi's Traffic bandmate Steve Winwood performed a hefty slice of early-Seventies repertoire including "Rainmaker" and "Low Spark Of High-Heeled Boys". Having dazzled us with his soulful vocals and organ playing, Winwood switched to guitar for a wistful "Dear Mr Fantasy". Capaldi's brother Phil was a revelation as a singer, while the Eagles' Joe Walsh singing "John Barleycorn" worked surprisingly well. Weller rejoined the ensemble for a groovy "Pearly Queen" before Winwood and Walsh duetted on "Love Will Keep Us Alive", a fitting finale to this celebration.
When Traffic reunited in 1994, they didn't perform their 1967 hits, so this concert provided the best overview of a group who have been pigeonholed as a Sixties curio. Sterling performances of Capaldi's solo material were an added bonus. His spirit lives on.Reuse content