Traffic for a Saturday night. One of the bands I have seen countless times, in countless incarnations since their debut in the U.S. – and one of the bands that has been consistently great that whole time. Early on, you could call Traffic a technicolor excursion in Psychedelia. But that was only one phase, one small part of the bigger picture. The thing about Traffic, and this may explain why they have (and as a solo artist; Steve Winwood) maintained a freshness over these decades, is that they were never really about being pigeonholed.
Bands like Traffic at the time, although very popular from the get-go, never allowed complacency to take over – you could never put your finger on them and say “Traffic was this kind of band, or that kind of band”. Because they took originality and kept expanding on it; kept trying new things – always reaching, the end result is a consistently fresh legacy that holds up, even the earliest material, some 50 years after it was first performed. That is an accomplishment.
That’s not to say you can’t assign a certain amount of nostalgia when you hear Empty Pages, Pearly Queen, Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys or Glad – but they don’t sound old – they don’t sound dim and distant. It’s music that can be listened to and absorbed whether you’re hearing it for the first time or the five hundredth.
Let’s face it – there is a lot of music by a lot of bands from previous decades that have not held up. Whether it’s the technical limitations of the studios at the time, the rambling indecisiveness and the mind-numbing jams and solos that marked the later 60’s/early 70s, or bands that were just weak – there is much that hasn’t risen to the level of memorable or pivotal.
That’s not to say Traffic didn’t have its detractors – all artists do – music is the one art form that covers a wide spectrum of tastes and not all tastes are the same. I’m speaking for myself here when I say Traffic and Steve Winwood have been cornerstone artists for me for a goodly chunk of my adult life and they continue to be fresh.
If you aren’t familiar, or have no idea what I’m rambling on about, I would suggest you just hit the play button and sit down with this concert – it will be an hour of your life well spent.