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.