Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Concert Review: Robin Trower & Jack Bruce - The Music Hall, Worpswede, Germany - 1 March 2009

The venue for the concert is 25km north of Bremen. The village of Worpswede is intimate, quite and beautiful. As my brother and I walk towards the The Music Hall I am intrigued that such a  music venue exists so far from noisy, densely populated towns and cities. It is 5.30pm and the band are going through a sound check. The songs are "Seven Moons" and "Lives of Clay" and sound great. At the rear entrance to the hall there are a number of vans with cables running from the stage area. The performance is being recorded for broadcast on Radio Bremen.

I meet a music journalist from Hamburg and we talk about the broadcast and the venue. My brother and I talk to a number of people from different parts of Germany and Sweden who are big Jack Bruce fans. It's good to see Laurie Brace (Road Manager/Sound Engineer for Robin Trower) and Steve Russell (responsible for Jack Bruce's instruments and amplification). We talk about tonight's gig, the previous night's performance in Nijmegen, Holland and exchange a few pleasantries and jokes. Two great guys kept busy making sure all the musical equipment is working, in the right place and ready for the musicians to perform. Also, ensuring that the sound balance is as close to perfection as possible given the restraints of the venue.

Steve Russell, Ronnie, and Laurie Brace

The program and posters outside and inside the venue intrigue me. The only musician displayed is Jack Bruce. It appears Jack is the main act and Robin and Gary are supporting musicians. I understand this is the way the music industry sometimes works. Two formidable musicians collaborate on three albums, organize a short tour in Europe, and only one musician is given recognition and billing. When I discovered the set list included the entire Seven Moons album I tried to curtail judgment, but couldn't. The album has a number of great songs, but also has its share of average, unmelodic tracks.

I notice Robin's Deja Vibe is absent from his pedals. This rules out the possibility of the trio inserting other songs in the set to provide contrast: up-tempo, funkier rhythms; the chance to hear Jack playing bass and singing on "Bridge of Sighs" or "Day of the Eagle."  A view shared by numerous Robin Trower devotees and musicians at the front of the stage. Indeed, the absence of songs from earlier collaborations - BLT & Truce - is a major talking point before, during and after the concert with fans. Tracks such as: "Into Money," "No Island Lost," "Won't Let You Down," "Gonna Shut You Down," "Gone Too Far," "Fall In Love," "Little Boy Lost" would have enhanced the set and experience.

Frankly, I despair of CD/DVD/concert reviews which make you wonder if the person was at the concert. or has listened to the music on disc. Some reviews on the internet, and in magazines appear to be “cut & pasted” and follow a familiar pattern with comparisons of Robin to ... well, you know who. A review bereft of originality and sincerity does a disservice to any impassioned and skilled musical artist. 

The show started around 9:00 pm to a hall packed with eager fans. At the outset Robin's guitar sound seems low in the mix. This fails, however, to make "Seven Moons" or "Lives of Clay" any less engaging. Two powerful tracks back to back. Robin's soloing is a revelation. In fact, it is noticeable that Robin and Jack are enjoying playing together.

The sound is uncluttered and Robin's guitar sound becomes more visible during the pedestrian "Distant Places Of The Heart". During the song Robin uses his considerable vibrato and guitar voicings to great effect. A wonderful, creative journey. A masterclass in sensitive, passionate soloing. The outro solo is stunning. Jack Bruce at the finish of the song says, “Life isn't so bad after all ...”  I believe, for the moment, he's right.

Tonight Robin's Strat is plugged into a 100-watt custom built Cornell amp. I prefer his guitar tone when he uses Marshall. In fact, towards the end of the set Robin's guitar sound appears to oscillate in volume; a combination of amp and faulty connections, perhaps.

After a passionate and enthusiastic version of “Sunshine of Your Love” the tempo slows for a rendition of “Carmen.” The live version misses the guitar overdubs and outstanding vocal Jack produced on the original recording. Not an easy song to sing, whatever your age, or state of health.

At some point I begin to feel Gary Husband is prone to over-drum - a la Buddy Miles - and the sensitivity of some songs, while still moving, are executed with undue rigidity.

Following “We're Going Wrong,” “So Far To Yesterday,” “ Just Another Day” the infectious rhythm of “Perfect Place” enables Robin to use the wah pedal to create haunting, biting, riffs that make the song seem too short. During the song the trio create a wondrous groove which the audience share with vocal enthusiasm.

I'm grateful that supreme musicians such as Robin Trower and Jack Bruce still grace this planet, share their music, their gift, and voice wherever, and whenever, possible. Both musicians have enriched my life and those of numerous others. I hope they tour together again without constraints and a different set list. I acknowledge they call the shots. Me? I'm someone who enjoys music played "live" with passion, vigor and creativity. So who am I to talk? I knew you would understand.

Link to photographs of the performance on 'The Music Hall' site: Photos + Videos

The concert was recorded and broadcast by Radio Bremen. Click on the following link for the whole concert: Robin Trower & Jack Bruce 

Set list signed by Robin Trower and Jack Bruce


tifany underson said...

They are the living legends of this music industry, and I admire that until now they’re still rocking the floor.

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Anonymous said...

Robin is a legend,his tasteful playing is always a clinic and any young guitar player should take the time to discover this amazing player!

alex xander said...
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