Steve Winwood: Back In The High Life In Salamanca

Steve Winwood performed April 29 at the Seneca Allegany Casino. At 68, Winwood seemed as though he was right at home on stage. P-J photo by Chris Chapman

SALAMANCA — As someone who musically came of age in the 1980s, Steve Winwood was one of those artists that was key in development of what sounded good and then what sounded great. Let me just say right off the bat, the guy is still great.

At 68 years old, the guy still has the voice to pull off his best known tunes and to give his fans exactly what they want. They got it on April 29 at the Seneca Allegany Casino. The place was not packed but the house was still nearly full.

In terms of seats, the empty ones were offset by the people standing along the sides and back of the room. Not too many shows at the casino in Salamanca have a wide range in age for the audience. This one did. There were people who brought their children, probably no more than seven or eight years of age. There were those that were around when Traffic was touring. Winwood brought them all out.

For those that are reading this with “Back in the High Life Again” going through their heads, the voice was just as it was when the song hit the radio. Winwood was spot on and his band was truly exemplary. Paul Booth’s mastery of several instruments, from flute to a variety of saxophones, and Jose Neto’s blurry hands on guitar being just a scratch of the surface.

While the songs were there, it was easy to see that the stage is where Steve Winwood feels at home. Whether he was behind the organ, on guitar, mandolin or just singing, the entire hour and 45-minute show was effortless. Even sitting in the 21st row, the performance felt as though I was sitting in the Winwood home and Steve was having a conversation with an old friend. The lyrics and the performance was just that relaxed. It’s obvious that this is an artist that lives his craft.

The show started with an island mix of “Back in the High Life Again” and progressed through Traffic, Blind Faith and The Spencer Davis Group all to find it’s way to a little “Higher Love” with daughter, Lilly Winwood joining the group after a tremendous set to open the night.

One thing was driven home: some songs and artists from earlier eras in music were nice to hear on the radio. They brought out an appreciation in so many forms of music. Thinking back to those days of hearing Steve Winwood on the radio, he was one of those artists that broadened the hard rock and metal foundations I had.

After all these years, to see the man perform these songs live on stage has proven how simply amazing the music truly is. It has definitely stood the test of time.