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Review London, Sun, 21 January 2007

Traffic-stopping tribute to Jim

Evening Standard, 22-01-2007

Jim Capaldi's band Traffic were not the biggest group of the psychedelic rock era, their songs never really entering the popular canon, but the late drummer was certainly well connected.

In a long career, he played with everyone from Jimi Hendrix to George Harrison, Eric Clapton to Bob Marley, before succumbing to stomach cancer in early 2005.

A tribute concert in aid of the charity he and his wife worked hard in his lifetime to support, the Jubilee Action Street Children Appeal, demonstrated the extent of his popularity.

Long-term bandmate Steve Winwood dominated proceedings and received the biggest cheers from the affectionate crowd, but also popping up here and there were Bill Wyman, former Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh, Yusuf Islam, Paul Weller and, all too briefly, Pete Townshend.

The show was a long one at three-and-a-half hours, although it started and finished surprisingly early, perhaps because all the dad-rockers in attendance habitually doze off at 9.30.

But with an extensive line-up ably marshalled by compere "Whispering" Bob Harris, who described the programme as like "a super Whistle Test", no one was on stage long enough for them or the audience to get bored.

Yusuf Islam, who as Cat Stevens was the opening act at Traffic concerts in 1970, gave an individual stamp to a more recent Capaldi composition, Man With No Country, to which he added a verse sung in Zulu and a snatch of his own Wild World.

Walsh brought us the effortless funk of Forty Thousand Headmen, augmented by a touch of jazz flute.

After an interval, Traffic co-founder Winwood emerged to batter the organ for four lengthy, mainly instrumental meanderings, he and his band improvising heavily over tracks including Rainmaker, Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring and an epic Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys.

However, the biggest applause came when he took to the guitar to wrench out a roaring solo during Dear Mr Fantasy, the career highlight that gave this evening its name.

Weller opted for Traffic's most pop moment when he arrived to play Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush, a rare hit single for the band, but it was Townshend who stole the show with a solo rendition of 1967's No Face, No Name, No Number.

The Who guitarist, who played with Capaldi at Eric Clapton's historic Rainbow comeback concert in 1973, paused only to rebuff a heckler with amusing brutality before making short-lived magic with his acoustic guitar and disappearing again.

Neither Weller nor Townshend returned for the traditional closing arms-entwined singalong, a heartfelt Love Will Keep Us Alive, but their work was done. The praises of one of rock's lesserknown legends had been sung with vigour.


By David Smyth, Evening Standard 22.01.07