Monday, July 21, 2008

Concert Review: Robin Trower - The Brook, Southampton - 28 May 2008


Sentimentality, or nostalgia, does not bring me back to listen to Robin Trower’s music or to witness his ‘live’ performances – it is his art, humility - and, above all, it is one of the joys in life. My brother, John, and I flew in from Belfast on the day of the concert.

The Brook is a great venue to see and hear a band.Tonight it was evident the sound system and stage monitors were operating at optimum level; the vocals and individual instruments were well balanced (Laurie Brace at the sound desk deserves praise). The venue was filled to capacity and tonight there was a wealth of smiles, shaking heads and clapping hands - and that was before the music started – must be the water in Portswood!

Robin's playing and soloing, the band - Pete, Glenn and Davey - the fans, the venue, and staff all contributed to one of the best concerts I've attended. After the Paris gig I thought the dizzy heights the band reached that night would not be attained again on this tour – I was, thankfully, mistaken. The RTB were given a great, warm welcome when they arrived on stage, and from the sound of Twice Removed From Yesterday you knew it was going to be an exceptional night. The whole band seemed to be in great spirits; each number in the set was played with enthusiasm and zest.

Robin played like only a virtuoso can, accompanied by an excellent band that generated warmth and intensity. I believe when Huddie William Leadbetter “Leadbelly” said “No white man ever had the blues” he was mistaken. Robin is a blues guitarist of the highest calibre, capable of creating music that touches your soul - most fans tonight, I’m sure, felt totally connected to the music. Performances this magical never leave the memory. Pete and Glenn provided a superb rhythm section for Robin to fly above with his solos. Tonight Davey’s vocals could be heard clearly and were great on Shame the Devil, Day of the Eagle, No Time and For Earth Below. Robin seems to be playing with greater zeal during the solos on this tour – how he achieves it at 63 is beyond me? – long may it continue.

The vibe and soloing during The Fool And Me, No Time and Rise Up Like The Sun was exceptional. A welcoming cheer and clapping always accompanies the trill at the beginning of Bridge of Sighs – tonight it is a roar. The band and the crowd are as one. Robin’s playing is so spontaneous; he just feels the vibe and goes with it. During the solo he indicated to the band to take it up a notch and he began to make his guitar wail for a few minutes gradually falling to a whisper - enthralling.

While it’s great to listen to the studio version, or one of the numerous recorded live versions, nothing beats hearing this song played live when you are there. I believe it only truly exists each time Robin plays it – when the sound is hitting you from the stage, and Robin is completely lost in his art. To me great music and guitar playing – as evidenced tonight - provides release from conscious thought, engenders tranquility, and has a wonderful therapeutic value.

Thanks to Robin, Pete, Davey and Glenn for a truly riveting concert. Also, thanks for enhancing the evening after the performance by your friendliness. It was the icing on the cake. Also, Laurie for being Laurie. Some great photographs and memories. It was great to meet up with Angie again – hope you enjoyed the Guinness? Also, Alan Howard, Jim Pearce and John Waters.

Thanks also to Dylan Clarke, Manager at The Brook,whose kindness and co-operation helped to make the concert special for my brother, John, and I. It’s a great venue with great staff and facilities. Just wish it wasn’t so far away. It will be hard to beat tonight’s concert, atmospheric crowd and venue.

Setlist: Twice Removed From Yesterday, Shame The Devil, For Earth Below, No Time, The Fool And Me, Roads To Freedom, Islands, Day Of The Eagle, Bridge Of Sighs, Rise Up Like The Sun, Victims Of The Fury, Gonna Be More Suspicious, Hannah, Little Bit Of Sympathy, , Too Rolling Stoned,Go My Way Another Time Another Place,

Concert Review: Robin Trower - Astoria 2, London - 23 May 2008

The musical legacy of Robin Trower is equal to that of his musical contemporaries in the so-called “upper echelons” of blues and rock. Yet, I feel it has never been fully absorbed by the wider musical public for various reasons, which include, lazy musical journalism.

Time Out - London has the gig listed as 'Former Procol Harum guitarist headlines with his Hendrix-esque power trio.' See what I’m getting at? I believe Robin still possesses the creativity to create further great musical works, unlike some musical journalist’s whose mediocrity damns them to be forever a critic, never an artist.

After the mid -‘70s Robin’s earlier success in the UK seemed to take one step forward and two steps back – does anyone know the full story except Robin, and his manager(s)? – nevertheless, the music press continued to write album reviews and articles about Robin, but appeared to fail to hear or listen to the music. A primary requirement some musical journalist’s disregarded in their search for new [sic] talent to help sell their tired, once bona fide magazines.

There will always be musician’s who seek out and listen to those who make the most money based on imitation and copy it. Such musical careers are usually short-lived, as are those of the chroniclers’. Counterfeit music and playing, like counterfeit goods, are eventually exposed for what they are by the naked eye and ears.

Robin has been endowed with certain talents which happen to include being a truly creative guitarist and great songwriter. Just don’t expect the UK media to write or talk about Robin’s guitar virtuosity and the substantial catalogue of music he has compiled.I attended the gig tonight with my wife, Sylvia, and friend Bobby. It was dark and packed; the venue has a reasonable sound system and it’s a good place to see a band. Sylvia and I stood at the front and it was nearly impossible to move – Bobby made his way to the balcony where the vocals were clearer in the mix.

The set list was the same as the US tour and right from the opening of Twice Removed From Yesterday Robin, backed by Pete Thompson (drums), Davey Pattison (vocals) and Glenn Letsch (bass), played music that was beautiful, creative and, at times, breathtaking. It was difficult at times to hear Davey’s voice except on the slow songs but he sung his lungs out – I know, they landed on my head!

Robin’s guitar tone and playing tonight were sheer poetry - when he was really soaring you felt he was bearing his soul. Pete and Glenn provided a rock-solid rhythm section which give Robin space to ply his art. Tonight the fans were as one – a nest of singing birds echoing the lyrics flowing from the stage, monitors and PA. The set list didn’t include all the songs I wished for, or the coda of Too Rolling Stoned but it was still magical. Another great gig that will linger in the memory for a long time.

Thanks to Robin, Davey, Pete and Glenn for putting on a great show.After the gig Sylvia, Bobby and I went to the Coach & Horses in Soho for a few drinks. I asked them for their analysis of the performance. I just listened - and without revealing identities - the following comments were made:

* Dave Bronze’s bass style and fuller tone was sadly missed, and impacted on the sound.
* Glenn Letch’s bass style and funkier tone improved the overall sound of the band.
* Davey’s vocals at times were inaudible – maybe time for Robin to bring in a different vocalist.
* When the sound balance is perfect and the monitors are working Davey’s singing is good.
* Jimmy Dewar’s vocals sadly missed on Hannah Robin and the band played tight, and obviously enjoyed the warm reaction from the crowd.

We agreed that Robin's guitar playing remains remarkable, and pondered the success of lesser mortals who seem to have cracked the musical media code, and continue to build and maintain their careers and reputations on past glories. A great trick if you can pull it off, but maybe you lose your soul in the process?

Setlist: Twice Removed From Yesterday, Shame The Devil, For Earth Below, No Time, The Fool And Me, Roads To Freedom, Islands, Day Of The Eagle, Bridge Of Sighs, Rise Up Like The Sun, Victims Of The Fury, Gonna Be More Suspicious, Hannah, Little Bit Of Sympathy, Too Rolling Stoned, Go My Way Another Time Another Place.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Concert Review: Robin Trower - The Rescue Rooms, Nottingham - 15 May 2008

It is obvious by tonight’s gig that Robin Trower possesses a rare power and spirit that has not been diminished by his long musical career. His music and playing continues to have an indefinable purity – it blends blues, soul, funk, R&B, jazz, etc., with a passion and fire other musicians only possess in their dreams.

Over the course of the show, backed by Pete Thompson (drums), Davey Pattison (vocals) and Glenn Letsch (bass) Robin took himself, and the audience, on an emotional voyage of ecstasy, blissfulness, serenity, cool and just rolling with it; sometimes going from a whisper to a storm-force howl in an instant. I believe Robin and his management must now be aware a strong fan base exists in the UK that appreciates his great songs, great playing, and consider him to be one of the finest musicians to originate from England.

The sound mix was not the RTB’s friend at the start, but the flames of the opening "Twice Removed From Yesterday" was enough to ignite the audience. Davey Pattison has an impressive set of lungs (believed to be stored in a bank vault in Glasgow) but it’s a shame the sound quality and mix let him down – during the earlier parts of the set his voice, and also the rhythm section, were completely buried by the sheer volume of Robin’s guitar.

When Davey performed on the slow songs his quality shone through: ‘For Earth Below’, ‘Bridge Of Sighs’ and ‘Another Time, Another Place’. The expressive rhythm section of Pete Thompson (drums) and Glenn Letsch (bass) are proving more dynamic as the tour progresses and, on occasions, were so tight it was evident they were inspiring Robin’s guitar playing to greater heights of passion, soulfulness and intensity. He seemed to be pushing it as far as it could go – visible by his facial expressions and fervour.Although Glenn was experiencing difficulty now and then hearing his bass in the mix he provided some superb bass lines, especially the central section of ‘Hannah’, ‘The Fool and Me’, ‘No Time’ and ‘Gonna Be More Suspicious’ - the swing of the rhythm section made you wish these songs would go on forever.

Robin’s guitar tone and expressive, melodic licks and phrasing were outstanding during ‘No Time’, ‘The Fool And Me’, ‘Rise Up Like The Sun’, ‘Gonna Be More Suspicious’ and ‘Bridge of Sighs’. I closed my eyes a few times to listen solely to the music – spontaneous, yet ephemeral. Yes, it was L-O-U-D and the venue was hot, and sometimes you had to clench your teeth, but it was still an amazing gig. Thanks to Robin, Davey, Pete and Glenn & Laurie (road manager) for putting on a great show. Nice talking to you all after the show and also Dave from Derby who was transfixed by the music and musicianship he had witnessed.Me? – I headed back to the hotel, drained, but refreshed, if that’s not too paradoxical to imagine?

Setlist: Twice Removed From Yesterday, Shame The Devil, For Earth Below, No Time, The Fool And Me, Roads To Freedom, Islands, Day Of The Eagle, Bridge Of Sighs, Rise Up Like The Sun, Victims Of The Fury, Gonna Be More Suspicious, Hannah, Little Bit Of Sympathy, Too Rolling Stoned,Go My Way Another Time Another Place,

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Concert Review: Robin Trower - Le Plan, Paris - 26 April 2008

My brother, John, and I walked to Le Plan from our hotel – and believe me it was a long-distance trek. No-one we asked knew what we were talking about, never mind where the venue was. 'Look for the circus,' someone said. At least I think that’s what they articulated. Tired, weary and hungry we arrived in a rural area – I believe I saw a few cows, but they couldn’t speak English - then we found a modest sign for Le Plan.

A large crowd had already gathered at the venue. We decided to go into the bar as it served food! I stopped chewing on my shoe, put it back on, and asked a waitress for a table – ecstasy. We eat and had a few drinks. We didn’t go into the main venue until the support band finished, and Robin was ready to come on. The waitresses were hospitable ... shame to leave. The crowd, en masse, were captivated by the Robin Trower Band from the moment they arrived on stage until they completed their final encore. The small, intimate, dark venue made for a great atmosphere.

Tonight the Robin Trower Band definitely had ‘je ne sais quoi’ giving those privileged to attend ‘joie de vivre.’ The opening chords of Twice Removed From Yesterday confirmed the venue had great acoustics, and that the sound system & balance were perfect. Each member of the band could be clearly heard for a change; especially Davey’s vocals, which was a welcome change.

Some talented musicians’ grow into maturity and then decline swiftly or slowly. Robin isn’t one of those. While the set list was the same as the recent US Tour – mostly comprised of early works – there was no discernible loss in quality. Pete’s new drum set-up sounded incredible, and added a new dimension to the band’s sound. He sat enclosed by an array of cymbals, different drums, different brands, which he played with finesse - a pact with the devil maybe? Robin looked around at Pete a few times during the gig and smiled obviously attentive to some of the great touches Pete was adding to the music.

In New York it had been difficult to hear Glenn’s bass properly in the mix. Tonight, however, his bass playing was audible - the tone of his bass and technique perfect for Robin’s music. It was evident he was enjoying the gig as Glenn and Pete engaged in diverse grooves to complement Robin’s playing, and Davey’s singing.

The crème de la crème was Robin’s soloing in the coda of Bridge of Sighs. His playing at times varied between soft whispers and wailing screeches; all skilfully controlled highlighting Robin’s virtuosity. I just gazed in amazement and surprise. Breathtaking . . .

Davey was in fine voice throughout the concert (he could actually hear himself) which allowed him to concentrate on his delivery, and interact with the crowd. Throughout the concert the standard of Robin’s guitar playing and soloing was the best I’ve witnessed. He seemed to be playing with more passion than usual; if that’s possible to envisage, and the spiritual dimension that Robin and the band created on stage seemed to engulf the audience.

Robin’s tone was beautiful tonight, totally beyond description – he was using a RT50 Cornell amp combined with a Marshall - only Robin knows how he gets his tone. I love the spiritual dimension Robin is able to deliver in concert; it evokes the sweet, aching agony of nostalgia and a unifying joy that stirs your heart, soul, spirit – call it what you will.

To summarise: Robin, Pete, Davey, and Glenn played their hearts out tonight, and showed they were - in terms of musical talent - par excellence.

Setlist: Twice Removed From Yesterday, Shame The Devil, For Earth Below, No Time, The Fool And Me, Roads To Freedom, Islands, Day Of The Eagle, Bridge Of Sighs, Rise Up Like The Sun, Victims Of The Fury, Gonna Be More Suspicious, Hannah, Little Bit Of Sympathy, Too Rolling Stoned,Go My Way Another Time Another Place