Review by Steve Nover
I would like to think one can be bias-free at a concert where you love both acts, but it’s not easy.
I’ve been a fan of Steve Winwood throughout his 50-year career, and he bookended his show by going back to the beginning. At the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, he began his one-hour set with the Spencer Davis Group’s “I’m a Man” and closed his too-short set with “Gimme Some Lovin'” – the band’s two Top 10 U.S. hits. (They were even bigger in England, where “Keep on Running” hit No. 1, enabling the 16-year-old Winwood to buy a Hammond B-3 organ.)
Traffic was Winwood’s next band, and after a one-album side-trip to Blind Faith, he returned to reform Traffic. The SPAC audience was treated to a beautiful version of Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home” (with Winwood on guitar) and three Traffic numbers, beginning with “Pearly Queen” featuring tasty solos by Winwood on organ. His guitarist-flute player also supplied fireworks on sax for most of the set and took over the organ on Winwood’s two forays on guitar – the other being “Dear Mr. Fantasy.”