Saturday, July 30, 2005

Concert Review: Robin Trower - The Life Cafe, Manchester - 16 March 2005

Robin in full flight. Photo by Ronnie Kerrigan

I travelled from Belfast to Manchester with my wife, Sylvia, daughter, Emma, and son, Ricky, on the day of the concert. From my viewpoint I was wondering how the band would sound, the standard of playing, the nature of the set list (at least four tracks of Living Out of Time and two unrecorded tracks), and how a younger generation would assess the music and guitar playing of Robin Trower in concert?

It proved to be an exceptional performance from Robin and his band. They arrived on stage unannounced at 9.30pm sharp to a rapturous reception. Robin was handed his red and white Strat, and from thereon had the audience in the palm of his hand. Small venue, big sound, great atmosphere, and within six feet of Robin and his array of Fulltone Effect Pedals. Sure beats an arena any day.

It was apparent from the opening chord and flurry of notes by Robin, and the opening riff of "Too Rolling Stoned", that the sound and balance was great (a tremendous accomplishment by Laurie Brace, Sound Engineer for Robin Trower). Robin’s playing appears to have reached a higher level with an extensive array of incredible string bends, stunning use of feedback and tremolo arm, arpeggios, and long sustained notes - all played in his astounding soulful, bluesy, emotionally charged manner. And this was only the opening number.

While Robin has undoubtedly an extensive backlog of great songs, I was surprised at how well the new material sounded and was received: quite an accomplishment for Robin and the band. No artist of caliber should remain in a time warp. From the new album “What’s Your Name” - early in the set - was exceptional, if slightly short at three minutes. Next a great version of “Rise Up Like the Sun” of the 20th Century Blues album and Robin was really cookin’; soloing out with a great wah solo.

A soulful and bluesy version of “Daydream” followed: 11 minutes of mesmerising ecstasy; great bass lines from Dave Bronze, and drumming from Pete Thompson complimenting Robin’s playing. My wife, daughter, and son were astonished at the spiritual nature of the sound produced on stage (after the concert they expressed amazement at the emotion created, and Robin’s guitar playing style).

Just when I though things couldn’t get better the band burst into the title track of “Living out of Time”. Davey’s vocals were superb and Robin flashed several smiles at the other band members as he played the hypnotic riffs and chords; the band was definitely connecting and enjoying the performance. Great versions of “Day of the Eagle” and “Bridge of Sighs” (eleven minutes of pure soulfulness) followed, and were met by rapturous applause and ecstatic yells from the audience.

An unrecorded song followed called “Close Every Door” with great vocals by Davey, and a hard hitting wah lead by Robin at the end to the song was exceptional. Next “I want you to love me” of the 20th Century Blues album took the concert to new heights. Robin’s bluesy licks and passion, supported by Dave’s strong bass lines, and great drumming from Pete, made this a favourite with the crowd.

“Another Time Another Place” provided a wonderful vehicle for Davey to show his vocal skills with Robin providing great fill-ins throughout the song. The band finished with a blistering version of a “A Little bit of Sympathy” and left the stage to thunderous applause. The crowd was truly appreciative of a great performance by Robin and his band. The encores included an unrecorded song called “Come to Me” with its catchy wah riff, and bass lines which allowed Robin to solo using all his guitar playing arsenal and passion.

“Secret Place” proved to be a fitting end to the concert with its jazzy, bluesy chords and tempo. Robin’s guitar playing reached new heights of emotion and soulfulness which fully connected with the crowd.

I would like to thank Robin, the band, and crew, for a memorable concert.

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