Written by: Matt Wardlaw
Driving home tonight, I was listening to the new 'Icon' hits compilation from Steve Winwood and it put my thoughts off into an interesting direction.
One of the things that continually bugs me somewhat silently (except for when I'm writing posts like this) is the shift that Steve Winwood made that took him away from performing material from his '80s albums. Somewhere around the late '90s, it seems like the focus shifted from a somewhat even mix of the old and older to a heavier focus on the earlier material from Blind Faith, Traffic, etc., with the occasional dose of 'Higher Love' thrown in. It was the Winwood equivalent of the expected 'The Way It Is' from Bruce Hornsby, thrown in as a token nod to fans that were listening to his music during that era.
More recently, there's been a bit more of the '80s stuff creeping into his setlists, but it's still not at the level that would make a Steve Winwood concert ticket an automatic purchase for me.
So what would do the trick?
Well, that was what was on my mind as I was driving and initially, my answer was a full album performance of the 'Back In the High Life' album.
But hell, you know I could just as easily go for a double shot - how about both the 'High' and 'Roll With It' albums?
I know - I just presented the world's least likely scenario with the above sentence, but that's my problem that I keep running into. If I get that full album performance, whatever Winwood album it is, there's going to be additional songs that I need to hear. Sure, I'd love to hear the Blind Faith and Traffic stuff, but I also want to hear the other '80s hits like 'Roll With It, 'While You See A Chance,' and maybe even a really cool random deep cut like 'One More Morning.'
For my dream Winwood tour, it's going to have to focus on the '70s and '80s solo stuff nearly exclusively to make room for stuff like the above.
Truthfully, perhaps it would be the 'Chronicles' tour where Steve runs through the entire 'Chronicles' hits album in sequence, with selected additional tracks - stuff that didn't make 'Chronicles' but should have, plus tracks from 'Roll With It.'
I'd be all over that.
Tonight, it all brought me back to 'Talking Back To The Night,' the one Winwood solo track that I always have to crank up, without exception. I can't tell you what it is about that song, but a few years back, I was going through a breakup and in all of the years that I had owned 'Chronicles,' I'd never quite heard 'Talking Back To The Night' the way I did on that night that I listened to it for what effectively was the first time - the first time that I heard it and it really made impact.
It's just one of those great songs that does what any great song should do - it takes you far away from wherever you are at the moment that you're listening to it and it sets your mind free to dream and as your mind begins to wander, you just feel that much better...no matter what your mood is.
At least that's what it does for me. Your mileage may vary.
Honorable mention - how great is 'Vacant Chair?'one
Written by: Matt Wardlaw
The Tangier provided an odd, but ultimately satisfying venue to watch the Smithereens play their first Cleveland area gig in quite a while. What was the last one? Was it the gig at the Rock Hall, playing as the headliner on an afternoon of band battles hosted by Guitar Center? Or was it their summertime gig at Nautica, playing (I think) Taste of Cleveland? Either way, it's been close to ten years since the band has graced our city with their presence, and their return was welcome and long overdue.
The incredible core of the Smithereens - singer Pat DiNizio, guitarist Jim Babjak and drummer Dennis Diken, remains intact with newer recruit Severo "The Thrilla" Jornacion holding down the bass duties these days since original bassist Mike Mesaros retired several years ago. And after 31 years of playing shows, The Smithereens remain as one of the best live bands you'll see on the circuit, delivering a show that's worth every penny and then some....and in my case, worth the drive to Akron.
The band returned to Ohio armed for the first time in 10 years with new music, courtesy of their new Don Dixon-produced opus '2011.' The new material seems to have added quite a bit of vigor to the band's performance of songs both old and new, punching the attack on the older songs up a couple of extra notches. New songs like 'One Look At You' (a Babjak song that already feels classic), 'Keep on Running' and 'Sorry' are a nice heads up to anyone in the concert audience that the Smithereens do indeed have a new album and it is most certainly worth hearing. But in a brief pre-concert survey by radio DJ Jim Chenot, a show of hands demonstrated that quite a few in the audience already had '2011,' so the 'Reens came on stage to a house full of fans that were well aware and ready.
Although Babjak's guitar was missing in action in the sound mix for the first couple of songs, they thankfully quickly got the mix in line and this Akron Smithereens performance was everything that you'd want it to be, with a setlist that covered most of the bases. As far as the venue, once you get past the supper club feel of sitting in the audience watching a Smithereens show, which just feels weird, it actually ended up being a nice room for the show.
I've said this before in several different forms, but there's nothing quite like watching the Smithereens do their thing. Witness Babjak's seemingly effortless guitar playing, the equally impressive Diken on the drums, who as DiNizio notes, is a "great rock and roll drummer" and the new energy from 'The Thrilla,' who ably fills the big shoes of his predecessor. DiNizio leads this rock and roll bunch and every time I see them, I always think about how they shouldn't still be this good. But they are.
And what is that all about? I think it's pretty simple, really. The Smithereens came up at a time when they learned from their idols like the Beatles and the Who that it was all about being able to play live. The Smithereens are a great live band and Friday night's show was once again proof that the passage of time can't take that away. With a new album to promote, chances are good that the 'Reens will be coming to your city sometime soon and my friends, that's a rock and roll trip that's well worth taking.
Behind The Wall of Sleep
Top of the Pops
Miles from Nowhere
One Look At You
Room Without a View
Only a Memory
Since You Went Away
Drown In My Own Tears
Keep On Running
House That We Used To Live In / Sparks (The Who)
Time and Time Again
Blood and Roses
A Girl Like You (snippet of Get Together) into Behind Blue Eyes
Written by: Matt Wardlaw
Just in case you missed 'Drum Solo Week' on Letterman...
From the slightly newer school, Tommy Lee has unveiled what possibly might be his most bad ass drum kit to date.
Lee explains his latest drumtastic venture:
"This idea came about from when I was a kid going to concerts,” comments Tommy Lee. “Whenever the drummer started his drum solo, I wondered why people would leave to go get a beer, buy a t-shirt, restroom, whatever!! I wanted to show people what happens behind the drumset, so I decided to expose it all by flipping the drums vertical, upside-down, making them disappear and fly over the audiences heads! Mötley Crüe brings you on a thrill ride, jump on the 360!…Lets do this! By the way, it's really f@cking difficult playing while on this ride!”
I'll admit that I'm not so much for the typical concert stalling drum solo at most gigs, but the above almost makes the prospects of attending a Motley show seem worthwhile in 2011. Nothing against Motley, but the ship sailed on my interest to see them live a long time ago.more