The tone for Steve Winwood's Monday night concert was unquestionably set from the start.
With a career that spans nearly three full decades and includes stints with the Spencer Davis Group, Traffic, Blind Faith and lengthy successful solo effort of late, Winwood opened his show with a pulsating version of "I'm A Man" - a throwback to the mid-'60s and his Spencer Davis days. Completing the package was a flowing backdrop looking hauntingly similar to a lava lamp, which completed both the mood and the opening-performance package.On the heels of "I'm A Man," Winwood quickly countered with his first solo hit of the 1980s, the anthem-like "While You See A Chance," with three separate keyboards covered by half of the six-member band.
And there it was. Winwood was serving notice. Rock of the ages. A little Spencer Davis, a little Traffic, a very little chit-chat, quite a bit of solo material and a whole lot of music - all crammed into a two-hour show.
His stop in Salt Lake City marked the eighth day of Winwood's current 10-week, 50-city tour - his first U.S. tour since the summer of 1988.
Meanwhile, the audience was reflective of the peoples and periods touched by Winwood since his 1964 start, either individually or collectively with Traffic mates like Jim Capaldi and Dave Mason and Blind Faith peer Eric Clapton.
Compared to their pop or heavy-metal concert counterparts, those in Monday's crowd made up a more mature group - evident by the varying degrees of age-affected hairlines and waistlines and the appreciation for Winwood's time-tested hits, no matter from era they originated.
And even though the crowd served as a multi-generation group was affected by Winwood's music, it still wasn't easily moved at the start of Monday's concert. It took some half-dozen songs before the talented musician-vocalist had the majority of the previously reserved performance patrons dancing in the aisles. A rousing rendition of "Valerie" seemed to finally kick the crowd into high gear - and kept them there.
From there, Winwood offered his trademark - long musical passages - in pieces primarily from solo albums, including "One and Only Man" from his latest "Refugees of the Heart."
In one of the few remarks made to the crowd, Winwood announced "a little journey back in time" as a prelude to a four-song set of Traffic tunes - "Love Sparks," the instrumental "Glad," the upbeat, folksy "Feelin' Alright," and "Medicated Goo."
The concert was billed as "An Evening With Steve Winwood," but the native Briton, who also makes a home in Tennessee, was content to share the solos and spotlights with the other five who comprised his touring group - Larry Bryom on guitar, keyboards and background vocals; Randall Bramlett on saxophone and keyboards; Michael Rhodes on bass, Russ Kunkel on drums, and Luis Conte on percussion and background vocals.
Winwood, who turns 43 this weekend, showed his versatility as well, manning more than merely the microphone and contributing his talents on the keyboards. Besides shifting from one keyboard to another, he also added an effort on the vibraphone as well as the mandolin - the latter on an extended version of "Back in the High Life Again" that served as the first of a two-song encore.
More signature selections followed the Traffic segment during his regular-session set, with Winwood winding up the concert in fine fashion with a pair of his more recent hits - "Roll With It" and "Higher Love."
Following the previously mentioned, mandolin-laced "Back in the High Life Again," Winwood concluded the concert in much the same way it started - another romping Spencer Davis Group number - "Give Me Some Lovin' " - that had the crowd rocking and roaring.