Rollin' with it
POP: Steve Winwood; Hanover Grand, London
Saturday 03 May 1997
Not necessarily tonight, though, because what's going on is quite cool. There's an odd sense of the gravity-defying about little Stevie. At its best, his music is grittily uplifting, still all about the full-throttle sweat of R&B/psychedelia he pioneered (this is a man who can meld uncannily with a Hammond organ); and, though the chap's nearly 50, he still retains the quirky, slightly fey beauty of yesteryear. Some feat, since this is a rock 'n' roll baby who played big-band and Dixieland jazz at the age of eight, alongside his clarinettist dad, in the Ron Atkinson Band. By 12, on stage with his unfortunately nicknamed sibling, Muff, he was singing like Ray Charles on helium. At 16, he scored Staxy hits with the Spencer Davis Group; in his twenties, doped out of his mind, he was mixing prog-rock and psychedelia in Traffic (remember "Hole In My Shoe", all about a big albatross?). When he finally found a solo career, he made radio-friendly AOR credible with "Valerie" and "Higher Love", white-soul nonpareil.
The new album, Junction Seven, looks good on paper, with contributions from Narada Michael Walden, Jim Capaldi, Nile Rodgers, Lenny Kravitz and Des'ree. On CD, to be honest, it's a disappointment - slightly bland variations on 1986's Back in the High Life. In his natural habitat, however, a cramped and smoky club, Winwood made it move. The sound was flattened by the Hanover's low ceiling, the band - all at least half his age - were technically proficient, but multi-instrumentalist Winwood fired the set. He kicked off with "I'm a Man", soaked in brass and Hammond B3, his voice - half Marvin Gaye, half Roland Gift - scratching against the police siren wails of two cat- like Diana Rosses.
New tracks were buzzed up with salsa, Philly and jazz-funk, and sounded pretty much as good as what you'd come hoping to hear: the arch romance of "While You See a Chance", the edgy R&B of "Keep On Runnin'" and "Gimme Some Lovin'". He must've played this last song a time or two, but its hypnotic, insidious riff still makes him contort his face in an orgasmic, lip-biting rictus. I don't think he was the only one.
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Cyclist who knocked down three-year-old girl says his life has been 'destroyed'
- 2 A politically correct lefty goes to see Top Gear live – you'll probably believe what happened next
- 3 Young Preston fan has play-off hero Jermaine Beckford's shirt stolen from him at Wembley - which then appears for sale on Gumtree
- 4 Isis burns woman alive for refusing to engage in 'extreme' sex act, UN says
- 5 Puerto Rico, island of lost dreams: People are leaving the debt-hit territory in droves as near neighbour Cuba's star rises
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
EU referendum: David Cameron to deny EU migrants and under-18s the chance to vote
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people