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Steve Winwood and Tom Petty offer up choice tunes at Tulsa gig

Bill Kelly via Relix
Steve Winwood's live performance in Tulsa was outstanding!
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TULSA, Okla. – When you have two legendary musicians/performers like Steve Winwood and Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers sharing a bill, it’s hard to say who should be the opening act.

Well, as much as I love Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, I tend to lean towards being a bigger fan of Steve Winwood. The guy has been singing, writing and performing live since well before I was born (he was in his last years in Traffic before I showed up on the scene).

Plus, he has a lot of blue-eyed soul and an amazing voice. Not to mention his talents as a multi-instrumentalist, particularly on keyboards and guitar.

So, yes. Winwood opened up last night’s Tulsa stop on Petty’s 2014 Hypnotic Eye tour. And when I heard those opening chords to “I’m a Man,” his 1967 hit with the Spencer Davis Group, I knew it was going to be an amazing set.

And it was, Steve Winwood was relaxed and in top form at Tulsa’s BOK Center, which looked to be about full.

Winwood told the vintage crowd that much of the set was going to be vintage material. And it was. The only solo song he would dig out was his number one hit from 1986 – “Higher Love,” featured on the Back in the High Life LP.

Winwood’s ace band consisted of drummer Richard Bailey, incredible guitarist Jose Neto, a native of Brazil, fellow Brazilian Café’ da Silva on percussion, and English sax player Paul Booth. And what Stevie and the band gave us was a heapin’ helping of the aforementioned Spencer Davis Group, Blind Faith and Traffic tunes. He even threw in a 1970 Buddy Miles cover song called “Them Changes.” Also from 1970 was “Empty Pages,” a Traffic song originally featured on the John Barleycorn Must Die album.

Other Traffic songs included 1969’s “Medicated Goo, “Dear Mr. Fantasy” and the formidable, 43-year-old “Low Spark of High Heeled Boys,” which sounded as good as ever and not unlike the Traffic version featured on their 1973 live album On the Road. Booth’s sax sounded amazing on last night’s version.

The haunting "Can't Find My Way Home," originally written by Winwood and recorded with Blind Faith (Winwood along with Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker and Ric Grech) was one of my favorites during his set.

It is here where I should mention that I felt like things were just getting warmed up. When I heard the opening strains of his Sixties smash hit “Gimme Some Lovin’,” well, I knew the opening set was over. Of course in my mind I had this fantasy of him pulling out a sitar and breaking into the psychedelic-pop classic “Paper Sun.” That, of course, was too much to wish for. I then thought, then, Tom Petty comes out and breaks in his sitar-heavy 1985 classic “Don’t Come Around Here No More.”

And then I drifted back into reality. Drat! Steve Winwood’s set was done. Well, I’ve dug Tom Petty for years and, you know, his set was chock’ full of crowd-pleasing hits. Sure, he threw in just the right amount of songs from the new Hypnotic Eye LP, like “American Dream Plan B” and “U Get Me High” – the current single, although Petty acknowledged he didn’t know what a “single” was anymore.

And who can’t help but love guitarist Mike Campbell and keyboardist Benmont Tench. And of course the rest of the band: drummer Steve Ferrone (who replaced Stan Lynch), guitarist Scott Thurston and bassist Ron Blair (who was replaced by Howie Epstein and came back as a Heartbreaker after Epstein’s death in 2003).

Hearing the opening chords to The Byrds’ 1967 hit “So You Wanna Be a Rock n’ Roll Star” was a treat, particularly as an opening song. I know Petty and Campbell admire The Byrds and Roger McGuinn and Gene Clark, so it made sense.

A lot off of 1989’s Full Moon Fever album, which was technically a solo Petty album. “I Won’t Back Down,” “Runnin’ Down a Dream,” “Yer So Bad” and “Free Fallin’” got the crowd really wound up … as did the classic sing-along “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” and early hits like “A Woman In Love (It’s Not Me)” and “Refugee.” "Rebels," a lesser-known cut from 1985's Southern Accents was unexpected - and sounded good in that venue.

A few of the hits off of 1991’s Into The Great Wide Open were on there (the title track and a stripped-down “Learning to Fly.”

And yes, “American Girl” was the encore.

Alas, no “Don’t Come Around Here No More” or “The Waiting” or “You Got Lucky” or “Wildlfowers.” Some personal favorites. Plenty of his later hits (of course the Full Moon Fever stuff is 25 years old!) were on display, much to the crowd's approval. 

All in all it was a fantastic concert with two living legends playing excellent music spanning over four decades. What a sonic treat!

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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