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.