Steve Winwood’s biography claims he’s 64 years old.
But after watching and listening to the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer take a trip through his nearly 50-year catalog of tunes for almost two hours, you’d think the dude just might be a vampire.
Sure he’s got a few lines on his face and some gray around the edges, but the fit and sprightly sexagenarian’s voice is still strong and soulful, and the near sold-out crowd Tuesday night at the Akron Civic Theatre appreciated every note.
Winwood drew from all the major eras of his career, including his stints in the Spencer Davis Group, Traffic and Blind Faith as well as his solo work, in a dozen-song set that skipped several of his ’80s pop hits for more recent fare from his 2009 solo album Nine Lives, which reached the top 15 on Billboard’s chart.
Winwood and his quartet — guitarist, drummer, percussionist and saxophonist/flutist/organist/vocalist — highlighted and then hammered the soul and R&B underpinnings that have run through much of his music, opening with lengthy and funky vamp on Traffic’s Rainmaker before reaching back to the beginning and turning up the tempo with the SDG’s I’m a Man.
He then offered a few recent tunes, such as the simmering acoustic guitar-driven, near-smooth jazz ballad Fly, which earned a standing ovation from many concert-goers, and the syncopated, grooving At Times We Do Forget featuring a jazz flute solo and Latin rock midsong breakdown that would make Carlos Santana envious.
Winwood only played one of his big ’80s hits, Higher Love, stripping the record’s mechanized grooves, dated synths and Chaka Khan, leaving a lean, funkier arrangement.
He didn’t have much to say to the audience other than a brief dedication of his bluesy hit Dirty City to the city of “Ack-Kron.”
In the latter half of the show, he offered some melodic lead guitar on a lovely Can’t Find My Way Home, and played a bouncy organ solo over an extended funky vamp on Empty Pages. He unleashed a version of Light Up or Leave Me Alone that might have gone a little longer than necessary, as each band member had several choruses to shine, but nevertheless drew another ovation from the crowd.
After the encore break, the simmering groove of Dear Mr. Fantasy had couples wrapping their arms around each other and much of the crowd singing along, and the show-closing Gimme Some Lovin’ stopped the egress and had folks dancing in the aisles.
Throughout the show, Winwood’s voice was strong and his singing passionate and soulful. He did few of the common vocal compensating tricks — going low where he used to go high, pinching the long notes — in which many of his fellow veteran rockers engage.
Winwood’s birth certificate says 1948.
But his voice, energy level and ace band suggest he might still be singing and playing in 2048.