Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Steve Winwood - Tour Rehearsal, Wimbledon, Britain, 5-20-1983

The other day, I wanted to listen to something from Steve Winwood that I hadn't heard before. I thought a concert would be good, since I don't have much live music from his solo career. But many songs from his hit 1986 album "Back in the High Life" are overplayed, and I haven't heard much of his solo stuff from prior to that. So I looked for something earlier. It turns out he only did one solo tour prior to that, in 1983. Unfortunately, there seem to be no really excellent sounding bootleg recordings of that tour... except for this one.

However, this isn't exactly a concert recording. Instead, it's taken from a rehearsal right before the tour began. Winwood and his band ran through most of the songs they would play on the tour just as if an audience was there. But since there was no audience, the already very good sound quality is improved by the lack of any cheering and clapping. 

Sometimes, these sorts of rehearsals can be poor, with the musicians fumbling their way through songs they're still trying to figure out. But this must have been a final run through, because the songs sound as sharp and good as if they were played in concert, with no flubs at all. 

Already by 1983, Winwood had three successful solo albums, and a couple of big hits with "While You See a Chance" and "Valerie." So, not surprisingly, most of the songs here are from those three albums. Due to the massive success of his 1986 album "Back in the High Life," most of these songs would be retired from later concert tours. Thus I'd suspect these are the only good recordings of many of them, other than the album versions.

In the actual 1983 concerts, Winwood would play more songs from his time with Traffic and the Spencer Davis Group, namely, "Somebody Help Me," "Dear Mr. Fantasy," "Gimme Some Lovin'," "The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys," and "Keep on Running." Unfortunately, none of those are included. Probably that's because he could do a song like "Gimme Some Lovin'" in his sleep by this time, so there wasn't much need to rehearse it. The only oldies are "I'm a Man" and a cover of "(I'm A) Road Runner." Note that "Your Silence Is Your Song" is a rarity that only appeared on a 1982 movie soundtrack.

All of these performances were taken from YouTube videos. I couldn't find them anywhere else. I didn't see any mention of what order the songs were played. So I looked at the set lists of his 1983 concerts. Most of them had the songs in the same order every night, with a few additions or subtractions here and there. Thus I used that order. I couldn't find any reference to two of the songs being played in concert at all, "There's a River" and "While There Is a Candle Burning," so I put those two in front.

Note that there was a fair amount of dead air at the starts and ends of songs. I never heard any talking, so I didn't delete that. But there was some tuning or putzing around with the instruments. I think it makes a stronger listen with all that cut out.

This album is an hour and 27 minutes long.

01 There's a River (Steve Winwood)
02 While There Is a Candle Burning (Steve Winwood)
03 Your Silence is Your Song (Steve Winwood)
04 [I'm A] Road Runner (Steve Winwood)
05 Help Me Angel (Steve Winwood)
06 Arc of a Diver (Steve Winwood)
07 Valerie (Steve Winwood)
08 Second-Hand Woman (Steve Winwood)
09 Vacant Chair (Steve Winwood)
10 Slowdown Sundown (Steve Winwood)
11 Dust (Steve Winwood)
12 I'm a Man (Steve Winwood)
13 Big Girls Walk Away (Steve Winwood)
14 And I Go (Steve Winwood)
15 While You See a Chance (Steve Winwood)
16 Still in the Game (Steve Winwood)
17 Spanish Dancer (Steve Winwood)


The cover photo comes from his 1983 concert tour, but I don't know the details.


  1. Thank you! I'm a big fan of early solo Winwood and am looking forward to spending some time with this one.

  2. Thanks for this, Paul. I saw this line-up at a couple of venues - Lancaster Uni and Newcastle as I recall. It was a good band and I particularly remember the solid contributions of pianist James Hooker, who had previously been a member of The Amazing Rhythm Aces. The odd thing about this tour was that it wasn't tied in to some album launch as is/was so often the case.

    The 'Talking back to the night' album had come out the previous year to a pretty lukewarm reception,but then some radio stations started playing 'Valerie' a lot and Island jumped on the bandwagon, releasing it as a single, which did OK in Britain, if not elsewhere.

    As for the other two songs you reference, "There's a River" was as I recall a strange choice for a single c/w a (non-album) song called 'Two Way Stretch' and both 'There's a River' and "While There Is a Candle Burning," appeared on the 'Talking back to the night' album.

    All in all, it was a bit of a strange time for Winwood. He'd had some solo success with the 'Arc of A Diver' album but 'Talking back to the night' never really took off. He was approaching the end of his long relationship with Island Records and was really trying to a find a bridge between his old fanbase and the new audience he was looking for - particulalrly in the USA.

    He'd done some live work with Eric Clapton around this time (The ARMS Concerts, to name but one) and Clapton's US success seemed to be the model for the stuff that came next - the massively successful 'Back in the High Life' album which appeared in 1986.

    After that he jumped ship, leaving Island for Virgin and shifting his base to the USA for a while. Initially, he had a lot of success but his subsequent album releases became increasingly mediocre and he lost many of his fans, both old and new.

    In the end, reforming Traffic for a last hurrah in the early '90's was probably an attempt to regain a foothold with older fans - and a degree of credibility as well. Generally, though, my view would be that his studio output simce 'Arc of a Diver' has been patchy at best.

    1. Thanks for all that info. I hope other people will give that a read.