Stevie Winwood - organ, guitar, vocals; Chris Wood - saxophone, flute, piano, organ, vocals, percussion; Rick Grech - bass; Jim Capaldi - drums, percussion, vocals
This is unquestionably one of the most enjoyable Traffic sets ever captured on tape. For this second U.S. Tour of 1970, the band was still promoting their fantastic John Barleycorn LP, but had recently expanded the trio into a quartet again, with the addition of Blind Faith member Rick Grech on bass. The change not only added a welcome bottom end to the material, but freed up Winwood and Wood to improvise more on the group's newer songs.
Following a reverent but humorous introduction from Bill Graham, which someone in the band obviously finds humorous (laughs are audible on the recording), the group warms up with tight versions of "Medicated Goo" and "Pearly Queen," two of their more popular early songs. These are a little wilder and stripped down when compared to their studio counterparts - and are all the more enjoyable for it.
A taste of new material follows with "Empty Pages," played close to the album version, before segueing into a bouncy, psychedelic take of "Heaven Is In Your Mind." The tune is an exceptional one in general, but the interesting reed work from Wood and the raw live sound take it to another level; the band is obviously having a great time.
"40,000 Headmen" follows, and again, this older song sounds wonderful with the new arrangement of musicians. The band continues acoustically with the title track from John Barleycorn, giving the show a very intimate feel, before playing more jam conducive material for the rest of the show.
The band begins this second part of the set with another classic older number, "Who Knows What Tomorrow Might Bring." This song was mostly played as a set opener through much of 1970, but here is played to accommodate extensive improvisation from the band. The next 20 minutes of the set are devoted to a continuous, three song sequence from the John Barleycorn LP. This is a remarkable performance, expanding upon the album versions while exploring many new possibilities within the arrangements. The set closes with the rarely performed "Means To An End," followed by the obligatory "Dear Mr. Fantasy" - both captivating performances.
One of the striking things about this era of Traffic is what a creative lead guitarist Stevie Winwood had become. Always respected as a keyboard player and vocalist, this show shines light on what a talented multi-instrumentalist he actually was. The same goes for Chris Wood, who changes instruments throughout the show: whether on piano, organ, sax, flute and percussion, always adding flavor and diversity to the group's unique sound.
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