Thursday, December 15, 2005

Concert Review: Robin Trower - The Irish Centre, Leeds - 22 November 2005

This was special - why? - it just happened to be my birthday, so tickets, flights and accommodation were booked well in advance. My wife and I flew from Belfast the day before the concert. I must admit I still felt slightly exhausted following the Bristol concert - but hell it was worth it. On the day of the Leeds concert I regained my energy and as the clock ticked by my eagerness to witness again the finesse of the Robin Trower Band in concert heightened by the minute.

There has been immense hype in the media regarding the purported musical highlights of 2005: the reunion of ‘Cream’ (tickets selling beyond face value for as much as £1,500; no room for genuine fans unless immensely lucky - mostly corporate sycophants sitting in the front stalls, as with other major music events held these days), and ‘Live 8’ (worthy cause - all form, but modest musical substance).

For quite a few music fans in the UK a main highlight has been the return of one of its 'unsung heroes' to the live circuit in the personage of Robin Trower on the ‘Living Out Of Time’ Tour. Just don't rely on the music press - including guitar magazines - to inform you. This tour has confirmed that Robin should be recognised as one of the top guitar players of all time (up there with Clapton, Page, Beck, SRV, and the greatly underrated Rory Gallagher). Robin is a guitar master with a unique and distinctive sound, and inspired song writing ability.

Sylvia and I went by taxi to the venue and when the doors opened made straight for the front of the stage and met Laurie Brace, Sound Engineer for Robin Trower, and Steve Russell, Backline. These guys have been instrumental in ensuring Robin, Dave, Davey and Pete have achieved the sound and success this tour has generated, and it has been a pleasure meeting them; their friendliness and banter at each venue I attended has been greatly appreciated. Prior to the show we went to the dressing room and had a picture taken for posterity – whoever Prosperity is?

I noticed Robin’s amplification had been augmented on stage with the addition of two Leslie Cabinets to enable Robin to hear his guitar clearer, and to facilitate a better sound balance for the whole band. I felt he had played too loud at the Cambridge gig and this had impacted on the overall performance on the night.

Shortly after nine the band took to the stage and the crowd moved forward to the front of the stage. The atmosphere was electric and it was obvious from the opening chord progression of ‘Twice Removed From Yesterday’ that the sound balance was superior to the Cambridge and Bristol gigs I had attended lately - also the tone of Robin’s guitar. The crowd was totally mesmerised from the start and each instrument could be heard clearly, even Robin’s voiced parts during the song were audible.

I must admit I prefer the band opening with ‘Too Rolling Stoned’ as it enables the crowd and the band to get into a hypnotic groove early in the concert. But everyone has their favourite songs . . . including Robin. ‘Hannah’ again proved superlative with Robin playing beautiful arpeggios during the chord sequences supported by Dave’s ‘stellar’ bass lines (sounding Newtonian at times!), strong drumming from Pete, and great vocals from Davey (which tonight could be heard clearly). This definitely made the gig more moving and enjoyable.

I was slightly disappointed ‘What’s Your Name’ and ‘Living out of Time’ had not been included on the set list again – perhaps more flexibility with the set list would be a plus for the group and the fans on any future tour(s) . . . only planting seeds; The Fool and Me; Alethea; Secret Place. This, however, was compensated by the inclusion of ‘Fine Day’ - song writing at its best; and incredible lead playing during the solos.

The version of ‘Bridge of Sighs’ tonight was breath-taking and the solo fully highlighted the formidable vibrato, awesome string bending, and tremendous guitar tone which Robin possesses - truly emotional with melodic phrasing. The experience is augmented by the smaller type venue which, on this tour, has proved intimate for Robin, his band, and the fans, giving the atmosphere an electric charge not facilitated at larger venues.

Next was the instrumental ‘Islands’; a melodic masterpiece which enabled the trio of Robin, Dave and Pete to take the concert to a different emotional level. Another great song live is ‘Rise up like the Sun’ which allows Robin to solo over a great rhythm provided by Pete and Dave. Robin’s soloing once again reaching heights of raw emotion and soulfulness simultaneously - a joy to behold.

Other highlights included ‘Victims Of The Fury’; ‘Too Rolling Stoned’ ‘Go My Way’; and ‘Another Time Another Place’ which highlighted Davey’s excellent vocals and Robin’s beautifully placed fill-ins. The encores included ‘Lady Love’ and ‘Daydream’.

On the night Sylvia and I agreed ‘Daydream’ was in a class of its own due to the crystallization of the band emotionally and musically - something I am sure Robin appreciates – it enables him to let his guitar soar ever higher in search of that ‘buzz’ which somehow bonds with the audience. A truly memorable night. It is obvious Robin likes to play live and hopefully this band will tour in 2006 . . . just keep the fingers crossed.

Afterwards I bought the DVD and had it signed by the band. A lot of bantering, humour, and laughing on the night after the gig as evidenced by the subsequent photographs. A big thank you to Robin, Dave, Davey and Pete; also Laurie and Steve, for making my birthday special, and also the concerts I attended in Manchester, London, Southampton, Cambridge, Bristol and Leeds. It has been an adventure full of great memories, and fantastic music played by superlative musicians.

Pete & Ronnie

The Three Tenors aka Davey, Ronnie and Dave – 'Who said vaudeville was dead?'

Set list: Twice Removed From Yesterday; Hannah; Roads To Freedom; Fine Day; Islands; Day Of the Eagle; Bridge Of Sighs; Rise Up Like The Sun; Victims Of The Fury; Too Rolling Stoned; Go My Way; Another Time, Another Place; Little Bit Of Sympathy; Encore: Lady Love; Daydream

Concert Review: Robin Trower - The Fleece and Firkin, Bristol - 17/11/05

To escape the freezing dark air of Bristol I had a few drinks in the Seven Stars - a pub blessed with warmth and character, pleasant bar staff, and fellow Robin Trower fans’ seeking heat and refreshment prior to the gig being held literally next door. It was great to meet fans from South Wales; sadly I forget their names - great conversation about Robin, his guitar playing, his music and contemporaries.

As the crowd waited to gain access to The Fleece I talked to Laurie Brace, Sound Engineer for Robin Trower (always has a warm welcome) about the recent gigs. The venue had character and intimacy, and an appreciative crowd assembled as Robin, Davey, Dave and Pete took to the stage shortly after nine.

From the opening chord sequence of "Twice Removed From Yesterday" it was apparent the sound was superior to the recent gig I had attended in Cambridge with my brother. Every instrument could be heard clearly, including Davey’s vocals, and Robin’s guitar tone sounded smoother - less harsh - and definitely not as piercing.

The song "Hannah" has proved a crowd favourite on this part of the tour with Robin playing in his usual soulful manner, supported by Dave’s harmonious stellar bass lines, great drumming from Pete, and incredible vocals from Davey. The change in tempo mid section enabled the band to descend into a great groove along with the audience.

It takes a live gig to see and hear how the members of the band crystallize, emotionally and musically; something I am sure Robin appreciates. It obviously elevates his playing as evidenced by his solos tonight. "Fine Day" sounded great with its beautiful chord structure and rhythm which enabled Robin to solo with intensity and passion. Shame Robin wasn’t using the Mu-tron II on this song tonight; a great chorus / wah pedal which gives chords extra depth and punch.

"Victims of the Fury" has also proved popular in the set. A strong rhythm; great harmonies during the chorus from Davey and Dave; and Robin using the wah pedal to great affect during the chorus and leads.

Other highlights were "Another Time Another Place" which highlighted Davey’s passionate vocals; "Too Rolling Stoned"; "Bridge of Sighs" and "Go My Way". The encores included "Lady Love" and "Daydream".

I must confess I missed "What’s Your Name" and "Living out of Time" from the set list. To summarise - great musicians; great music; great sound; astounding guitar playing and a great night. A big thank you to the group and crew for delivering the goods on this tour once again. I was drained at the end – where do these guys get the energy from? Long may it continue.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Concert Review: Robin Trower, The Junction, Cambridge - 8 November 2005


It was a ‘Fine Day’ and a ‘Fine Night’. After attending gigs on the first leg of the ‘Living Out Of Time’ tour, it was great to see the set list for the second leg had been changed by Robin. This impacted on two levels: Robin, Dave, Pete and Davey appeared revitalised by the new set; and the crowd were noticeably jubilant to be given the opportunity to hear diverse songs from Robin’s extensive back catalogue. No 'Alethea', 'The Fool and Me', 'Take What You Need (From Me)', 'Over You', 'Blue For Soul', 'Living out of time', 'I want to take you with me', 'Back It Up', 'Rock Me Baby' . . . As the saying goes, ‘you can’t have everything'.

From the opening number it was patent the volume level was 10 and rising, as evidenced by the opening chord sequence of "Twice Removed From Yesterday". It was great to see this song performed live and with such power. The acoustics of the venue were problematic; causing reverberation difficulties not helpful to the band, or audience. The band really took off during the next song "Hannah" (the sound more evenly balanced) Robin playing in his usual passionate and emotional manner, supported by Dave’s strong bass lines, great drumming from Pete, and incredible vocals from Davey.

Following "Roads to Freedom" the opening chord of "Fine Day" took the concert to a new level. It has got to be one of the best songs Robin has written; the heavier sound and rhythm ‘live’ transcends the recorded version which I feel is on the softer side. Robin’s guitar playing reached new heights of emotion and soulfulness during the lead breaks in this song. I felt exhausted when it finished! A true gem.

I was surprised how good "Victims of the Fury" sounded; a great version – stronger rhythm, emotion and Robin using the wah pedal to great affect during the chorus and leads. Next was "Too Rolling Stoned" and the band was really in sync. Robin using his arsenal of techniques to great affect: string bends, use of feedback and tremolo arm, arpeggios, long sustained notes - which have to be seen and heard ‘live’ to be believed.

Other ‘highlights’ were "Another Time Another Place" showing Davey’s vocal prowess at its finest, with Robin’s guitar fill-ins enhancing the mood of the song; and a scorching version of "Little Bit of Sympathy".

The band left the stage to thunderous applause and shouts for ‘more’ from numerous hoarse voices in the crowd including myself, my brother, John K., John Waters and Martin Hughes. The encores included "Lady Love" and "Daydream". I must confess the version of "Daydream" was, for myself and my brother, the superlative song on the night on account of Robin’s guitar playing (at times amazing and truly emotional), the outstanding sound and bass playing of Dave, the pure drumming dexterity of Pete, augmented by Davey’s superb vocals. Spellbinding.

Robin & Ronnie post gig

Finally, it was great meeting up with John and Martin at the concert, and for drinks and conversation back at the hotel with Pete Thompson and Dave Bronze. Great night. Don’t forget the ‘WASP’ joke. Thanks to Robin, Dave, Pete and Davey for being so understanding in the presence of over zealous fans, and listening to our ‘ramblings’ with straight faces. Also, Laurie Brace and Steve Russell for their thoughtfulness and overall contribution to the sound at the gig.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Concert Review: Robin Trower - The Brook, Southampton - 22 April 2005

I travelled from Belfast for my third gig of the 2005 tour - I have a very understanding wife. While collecting my ticket mid-afternoon at the venue I was delighted to meet Laurie Brace, Road Manager/Sound Engineer for Robin Trower, and Steve Russell, Backline. We discussed the success of the European tour, the high standard of musicianship of the band, the great sound balance at the gigs in Manchester and London, and their respective backgrounds in the music business. It was great to talk to them and a pleasure.

The venue doors didn’t open until eight o’clock. I was fortunate, however, to meet John and Martin from London who both helped the wait in the queue to be enjoyable even though the weather was quite cool. When the doors opened we made straight for the area in front of Robin’s pedals and stayed there throughout the gig.

Robin and the band took to the stage unannounced and for over one and a half hours captivated the audience who burst into bouts of applause and yells at the end of each solo, and sustained appreciation for the quality of the playing and material throughout the concert, even though it was apparent it was very warm for the group on stage. After the obligatory opening flurry of notes by Robin, the band started into "Too Rolling Stoned". It was apparent the band was again in great form and fully in sync with each other throughout the set.

Robin again demonstrated his capacity for incorporating impromptu licks in his guitar solos’ throughout the set. This is refreshing as some “major league” guitar players are content (restricted!) to reproduce in meticulous fashion at each concert every lick and guitar solo played on the original recording. This, in my humble opinion, makes the music generally lack - to a degree - a certain critical factor, namely ‘soul’. Even at the age of sixty there is no doubt Robin’s playing has reached a superior level, even exceeding his earlier periods in the 70’s and 80’s. It is, however, still delivered in his unique soulful and bluesy manner, evidenced by his formidable vibrato, awesome string bending, facial contortions (mostly with his eyes closed) and tremendous guitar tone.

The songs of the new album, particularly, “What’s Your Name”, “Another Time, Another Place” and the title track “Living out of Time”, went down a storm. I was slightly disappointed Robin didn’t include “Ain’t Gonna Wait” and “I Want To Take You With Me” from the new CD, but maybe in the Autumn (Part 2 of tour) ...?

Other highlights included a great version of “Rise Up Like the Sun” with Robin playing a great wah solo; a soulful and bluesy “Daydream”; “Day of the Eagle” and “Bridge of Sighs”. Robin played some outstanding blues licks on “I want you to love me” supported by Dave’s strong bass lines and great drumming from Pete. Once again the band finished with a blistering version of a “Little bit of Sympathy” and left the stage to well earned applause and shouts for more. The smaller type venue is definitely more intimate for Robin, his band, and the fans, and the atmosphere was electric at times. The encores included “Come to Me”, and “Secret Place” which proved a fitting end to the concert with its jazzy, bluesy chords and tempo. Robin’s guitar playing was at times amazing and truly emotional during this instrumental.

I would like to thank Robin, the band, and crew, for a memorable concert. I spoke to Robin afterwards and told him he should be proud of the standard of the songs on “Living Out Of Time”. I bought the re-mixed CD at the venue and got the whole group to sign it.

I would also like to thank Dylan and the staff of The Brook who were obliging beyond belief, and helped me obtain a poster, meet with Robin and the band, and obtain autographs. Indeed, a great venue in all aspects. Cheers to you all. Might see some of you on the second part of the 2005 tour in the Autumn. Here’s hoping it comes off.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

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

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.