Thursday, November 30, 2006

Concert Review: Robin Trower - B.B. Kings, New York - Saturday, 14 October 2006

This concert will stay embedded in my memory for a long time. My visit to New York was fourfold: to see and experience the city; witness the Robin Trower Band in concert across the pond; attend a classical concert at the Lincoln Centre (Beethoven), and catch Woody Allen and his jazz ensemble at The Carlyle. I accomplished all four objectives and I’m still in aftershock.

As I collected my ticket at B.B. Kings mid afternoon I was pleased to be genially greeted by Laurie Brace, Road Manager/Sound Engineer for Robin Trower. Subsequently Laurie ensured I was given first class treatment before, during and after the concert, aided by his partner in crime, Steve ‘the Hat’ Russell, Backline and custodian of Robin’s guitars. Their generosity of time and thoughtfulness were, and remain, greatly appreciated. Not easy when setting up equipment, PA levels for the sound check, and making sure the band are content and their performance is as successful as humanly possible.

It was a pleasure to meet Neil Calandra for the first time after appreciating his photographic work, mostly through Steve Shail's site, and also Neil's friend, Ronnie. Laurie reserved a table for us facing Robin’s stage position which I didn’t expect and was grateful for; thanks again Laurie. A young guitarist called Jack joined us with his father (sorry I forget his name). Both had never witnessed the Robin Trower Band live in concert. After the show they confirmed they had been completely knocked out by the performance of the band, Robin’s guitar playing, and the pulsating atmosphere generated by the music.

Robin, Dave, Pete and Davey were extremely friendly and hospitable when they arrived for the sound check even though visibility tired. The travelling and gig schedule on this second leg of the tour can’t have been easy. The band played ‘Lady Love’ as Laurie adjusted the PA levels. I was surprised the levels set for tonight’s performance were lower than I heard on the recent UK tours. I thought Robin was keeping his guitar volume at about seven, even during soloing, to save extra volume for that extra punch during the show.

This wasn’t the case and during the actual performance the overall sound balance was first-rate with Davey’s vocals noticeably audible in the mix in conjunction with distinct bass sequences supplied by Dave Bronze and the drumming finesse of Pete Thompson. From the opening chords of ‘Twice removed from Yesterday’ it was evident the band had somehow regained their energy and I had caught them on a good night.

Without doubt Dave Bronze and Pete Thompson combine to provide a great rhythm section that compliments and inspires Robin’s playing; they know where Robin wants to go during his soloing and assist him in getting there. The band really hit home with an emotionally charged version of ‘Islands’. Robin playing melodic, soulful, bluesy charged licks and individually sustained notes that made you shiver; sheer genius . . .

Other highlights included blistering renditions of ‘Victims of the Fury’, ‘Too Rolling Stoned’, ‘Day of the Eagle’ and ‘Little Bit of Sympathy’. Robin’s solos highlighted his formidable vibrato, awesome string bending, tremendous guitar tone and the intense deep emotional feeling permeating his playing. Like the Chrysler building ‘Bridge of Sighs’ is a masterpiece; the former architectural, the latter musical, and any musician would be proud of creating and having this song in their set.

I believe songs like ‘Twice Removed from Yesterday’, and ‘Hannah’ cannot be replicated live without the warm soulful voice of James Dewar. The singing part of these songs is so important I don’t believe a singer exists who can come near. Yet, Davey's vocals are refreshingly unpretentious and exceptionally passionate. 

It would be great to see this band tour again - UK and Stateside - and for Robin to consider a degree of flexibility with the set list, and include other great songs he has written or co-written, and that work live, for example, Alethea, Take What You Need (From Me), The Fool and Me, No Time, Over You (a personal favourite of mine: great chordal sequences, outstanding guitar solo, beautiful, passionate vocal by Davey, and incredible heart rendering lyrics by Dave Bronze); and where was "Living Out Of Time"?

Post show it was great to be invited with Neil and Ronnie backstage for some banter, laughs and hospitality with Dave, Pete and Davey. I told Robin it had been a great show and thanked him for handing me his guitar pick at the end of ‘Little Bit of Sympathy’. It had encouraged a guy at the next table to get the pick at the end of 'Daydream' for his son, who was also there to witness a triumphant performance by the band.

We were invited by Dave and Pete to their Hotel in the Times Square district, and as Neil Calandra said, “... for a night cap ... Nice way to end the night.” High-speed elevators shooting residents into the air, the sparkling furnishings of the hotel lounge, along with memories of the gig, music and guitar playing reverberated in my brain as I caught the uptown train at 4.00 a.m. Thanks to Robin, Dave, Pete, Davey, Laurie, Steve, Neil and Ronnie for a great night, their time and generosity, and making a tired and weary traveler come alive again with great music, repartee and genuine kindness.

Set List: Twice Removed From Yesterday; Hannah; Roads to Freedom; What’s Your Name; 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 Encores: Lady Love; Daydream.

Postscript: Caught Woody Allen and his New Orleans Jazz Band at The Carlyle the evening before I flew home. I used what was left of my Irish charm to get into the venue as it was sold out. The intimate atmosphere and the set list - which included New Orleans rags, marches and spirituals - was exceptional, a highlight at the end of the show was "I'll See you In My Dreams" song by Woody; not unlike the atmosphere created by "Daydream"; you could hear a pin drop. A memorable trip, indeed.


Sunday, May 28, 2006

Concert Review: Robin Trower - The Academy 3, Manchester - 28 April 2006

I was fortunate to attend tonight’s concert at Manchester Academy with my wife, Sylvia, and daughter, Emma, to witness a triumphant performance by Robin Trower and his band; Dave Bronze on Bass, Pete Thompson on Drums, and Davey Pattison on Vocals.

The Academy’s acoustics, atmosphere, crowd and musicianship of Robin and his band provided the perfect ingredients for a truly memorable concert.

In his 61st year Robin has undoubtedly made his presence felt once again in his native homeland. He is not just a superlative master of the guitar; he is a first rate musician and songwriter. It should be evident by tonight’s reception that Robin enjoys a harmonious, loyal and appreciative fan base across the UK.

The seminal works, aka, "Day of the Eagle," "Bridge of Sighs," "Daydream," "Hannah," "Islands," and "Too Rolling Stoned" were absolutely breathtaking tonight. The band were perfectly in harmony, and appeared to play with renewed energy. Robin’s atmospheric and distinctive sound, combined with his unique soulfulness and emotion, and the musical intimacy of the band, combined to make this an awe-inspiring concert.

Robin’s music continues to somehow grab your heart and reside within; comparable to a close companion of honest warmth and integrity. Robin is a true contemporary of, Beck, Page, Clapton, Green, SRV - in effect, any guitarist you wish to a name. Those fortunate to attend tonight’s concert seen, heard, and witnessed an artist in full flight; liberated, and at the pinnacle of artistry.

Thanks to Robin, Davey, Dave, and Pete, for contributing to a great performance; also Steve Rusell and Laurie Brace - two genial guys who help to ensure the equipment and sound are at their best.

It was great to meet Steve Shail for the first time; Alan Howard who is always gracious and passionate about the music; David Knight and friend Tony Roberts, who I last met at Robin’s gig at the Life Café in the same city in March 2005.

Post gig we retired to the Kro Bar, Oxford Road, with fellow blues & rock fans, Heather Collier and Cassie McBirney. Enjoyable conversation, first-rate company, and a wide selection of beers contributed to an absolutely memorable evening/morning.

Set List: Twice removed from Yesterday; Hannah; Roads to Freedom; Too much joy; Islands; Day of the Eagle; Bridge of Sighs; 20th Century Blues; Victims of the Fury; Too rolling stoned; Go my way; Another time, another place; Little bit of sympathy. Encores: Lady Love; Daydream

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Concert Review: Robin Trower - The Rescue Rooms, Nottingham - 19 April 2006


Robin Trower and his band of "merry" men, Davey Pattison (vocals), Dave Bronze (bass), and Pete Thompson (drums) - it was Robin Hood territory after all - took to the stage at 9.00 pm and adorned their armaments ready for battle. The venue, while compact, proved an excellent setting to see Robin and the band up close and personal. To paraphrase the late Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy, "the band were red hot, I mean they were steaming," right from the opening chords of "Twice Removed from Yesterday".

As the set progressed it was evident the stifling heat in the venue was a burden the band would have to endure, which to their credit they did, combining superlative musicianship with the delivery of music of the utmost quality during the entire set. The heat took its toll and the group looked visibly exhausted and drained at the end of the gig.

While the overall sound was extremely loud, Dave's powerful and melodic bass lines, and Pete's drumming finesse were clearly audible in the mix; no mean achievement. It was evident the band were in excellent form, wholly in sync, and intensely immersed in the music.

Proof is in the delivery, and did Robin and the band deliver? Definitely, yes - the version of "Hannah" was excellent; strong bass lines clearly audible with Dave Bronze totally immersed in the music in perfect harmony with Pete Thompson's exceptional drumming; a great rhythm partnership which enabled Robin to layer the song with his unique guitar sound and style. Accompanied by a strong soulful vocal by Davey this song was exceptional on the night.

"Too Much Joy" was pure magic. I though Robin might sing it, but the vocal duties were taken by Davey. It proved to be one of the finest songs with Robin playing searing bluesy licks over a hypnotic tempo; lead guitar playing at its finest - passionate and soulful.

The version of "Day of the Eagle" was powerful, and the best I've heard on the recent UK tours. It would be great to hear a slightly longer play out by Robin in the slow coda prior to starting "Bridge of Sighs" which creates a unique atmosphere to enable Robin to play his guitar like no other musician; soulful, bluesy, and with tremendous feel.

"20th Century Blues" would be a brilliant opening number on this tour (April/May in UK before heading to the US; so catch the band on their current dates) and is clearly going to be a crowd favourite. The riff, rhythm, and solid bass lines make this an ideal vehicle for Robin to use his range of guitar playing techniques. The emotion it generated was clearly visible on Robin's contorted face as he bent his strings in all directions in combination with his formidable vibratos.

The rehabilitation of "Victims of the Fury" is proving popular with Robin's fans. Without doubt the harmonies during the chorus from Davey, and Dave, enhance the song, together with Robin's use of the wah pedal. The solos during the song were paramount to virtuoso guitar playing at its zenith.

Also sounding great and inspired were the versions of "Go My Way" (scorching wah soloing by Robin over a pulsating, harmonized rhythm provided by Dave and Pete ), and "Sweet Little Angel" - blues playing of the highest caliber - a strong rhythm enabling Robin to reach dizzy heights of passion and soulfulness, and Davey to sing his heart out. Truly memorable.

Other highlights were "Too Rolling Stoned" and "Little bit of sympathy". "Daydream" is always first-rate. The heat on stage must have been unbearable and Robin and his 'merry' men definitely earned the applause and adulation tonight.

This tour was promoting the release of Another Days Blues - a brand new album - and the 'Living Out Of Time - Live' DVD and CD from Robin.

Do yourself a big favour - catch Robin and his band on tour while you can, and purchase music that rocks and taps into your emotions.

Set list: Twice removed from Yesterday; Hannah; Roads to Freedom; Too much joy; Sweet little angel; Islands; Day of the Eagle; Bridge of Sighs; 20th Century Blues; Victims of the Fury; Too rolling stoned; Go my way; Another time, another place; Little bit of sympathy. Encores: Lady Love; Daydream

Ronnie, Davey, Pete, Dave and Alan