Monday, March 12, 2018

What is a "Greatest Hit" anyway?

Steve Winwood's sold out "Greatest Hits" tour stop at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby was not so much this

as it was this:

What I'm saying is that, with the exception of the No. 1s "Roll With It" and "Higher Love," the 69-year-old blue-eyed soul singer/keyboardist/guitarist ignored the 1980s, the period of the bulk of his greatest hits.
The first inkling this might happen came as Winwood  took a seat behind a Hammond organ. That keyboard's distinct and classic sound would probably rule out the more synthesized sounds of "Valerie," "While You See a Chance" and "The Finer Things." It should be mentioned that the gifted multi-instrumentalist in Winwood's rock-solid band freed "Higher Love" from its '80s sonic prison by playing the song's chirpy synth hook on saxophone.

Sure I absolutely expected to hear Spencer Davis Group, Traffic and Blind Faith songs -- the 1970 Traffic song "Empty Pages" still sounds quite fresh -- but was not expecting something branded as "Greatest Hits" to so grossly under-represent Winwood's most commercially successful decade.
"Did Steve Winwood just not have a good time in the '80s?," I wondered.     
Then I read something he said to Digital First Media's Gary Graff: "I remember, at some point in the '90s, there were people who were following me for my work in the '80s who weren't familiar with either Traffic or Spencer Davis, and didn't know that I was the same person that sang 'Gimme Some Lovin'' or the same person that sang 'Can't Find My Way Home' (both big-time crowd-pleasers at the Tower). I do specifically remember one person coming up to me after a show to say: 'I loved the show, but why did you finish with a cover of a Blues Brothers song?'
So I have these different sort of levels and phases I've gone through, and one phase isn't always familiar with the other phases."
 From what I could tell, Winwood's Philly faithful skewed close to Winwood's age, and therefore found "Dear Mr. Fantasy" and "Low Spark of High Heeled Boys" to be satisfying enough. The audience was also appreciative of the opening set by Winwood's daughter, Lilly (who appears in my "Roll With It" video above), who has a storytelling singer/songwriter thing going that would fit in very well at the Philadelphia Folk Festival.
Later I discovered Winwood recently released a "Greatest Hits Live" album, culled from the tour, that features "Back in the High Life Again," "Arc of a Diver" and "Freedom Overspill" -- songs I really wish I could have heard.

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