In light of all the superstar comeback tours that have enveloped the landscape recently, the low-key reunion mounted by Traffic, featuring remaining original members Steve Winwood and Jim Capaldi, seemed to offer the best chance for a pleasantly rewarding return to glory of an old favorite.
Lacking the hoopla and big-money trappings of higher profile extravaganzas, the return of Traffic promised a show where only the music mattered, appropriate given the British band’s reputation for flighty, genre-crossing excursions and no-nonsense productions.
And pleasant it was, but far from rewarding. The few tracks from the group’s new Virgin album, “Far From Home,” will never be confused with what long-time fans would call real Traffic, and many of the offered tunes from the band’s late-’60s/early-’70s glory days were, despite credible performance from the backing players, lifeless shells of their former selves.
Hard to fault frontman Winwood, though. His still-haunting vocals, fluid guitar playing and soul-filled organ and piano romps, not to mention his Dick Clark-like youthful appearance, all provided much needed spark to this otherwise dull concert.
Capaldi appeared a bit overwhelmed by the whole thing. Brought centerstage for a turn on old romp “Rock and Roll Stew,” the frazzled drummer appeared to have difficulty singing the song and keeping a steady beat on his percussion. Winwood saved the song with his potent blues-guitar lines.
The second-half of the 90-minute show was filled with lots of familiar songs, like the classic “Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys,” a terrific “Glad”/”Freedom Rider” segue and the delightful “Dear Mr. Fantasy.” But in spite of those few moments of pleasure, this reunion, 20 years in the making, didn’t come close to living up to the grand name that Traffic created for itself back in the day.