Steve Winwood June 13, Brooklyn Bowl
Shrug. We’ve all had that reaction to some event we had high expectations for, be it a movie, party or concert. It happened to me last Friday, when Steve Winwood opened a three-night run at Brooklyn Bowl. While plenty of fans seemed pleased with the 11-song, 90-minute set, I left feeling appreciative of the British rocker’s musicality but underwhelmed by everything around it.
That’s probably because Winwood, the frontman for The Spencer Davis Group, Blind Faith and Traffic in the 1960s and ’70s, left most of his hard stuff at home. It was as if we were watching a lovely evening of jazz at the beach, as if Sting called Winwood to say, “You know how people really like your more straightforward rock stuff? I find you can replace that type of fire with soft, world-music influences and elongated solos and lull your audience right into a coma.”
As for those solos, (how many flute solos do you need?!) every song bordered on jam-band mania. But the songs where you wanted the jams to extend—Traffic’s “Dear Mr. Fantasy,” for example, which featured Winwood expertly slicing through lead guitar licks—ended up far shorter than the ones where you didn’t.
Even the biggest hits felt like they needed some lift. “Higher Love” is a tight pop song but was brought down by more listless wandering. “Gimme Some Lovin’,” which the 66-year-old Winwood wrote and sang as a teenager with The Spencer Davis Group, felt more like a nostalgia trip than a song that should still be full of life. Combine that with the exclusion of some of his great ’80s stuff—no “Back in the High Life,” no “Roll With It,” no “Valerie”—and we were left with a show that just made me shrug.