Robin Trower - Live at Boulder Station

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Back in college, a fellow music fan told me about the music he liked, ultimately arriving at one of his favorite albums, Robin Trower’s Bridge of Sighs. I had probably heard some of his music, but it would have been some of those deep tracks on a rock radio station where you ask, "who was that?"  In any case, I kept the titlerobin trower bridge of sighs in mind, but it was scarce enough and when I remembered to look for it, it couldn’t be found.

A few months ago, I found a copy of it used, a remastered release with additional live material. It is regarded as one of the key "power trio" albums that helped define what rock guitar should be, at least within that category.  I don't know that it's significance is as appreciated today as it was in 1974, but many (guitarists, particularly) found the technical aspects and song variety inspiring.  Today, it has a very soulful sound, with a rock edge.  It's main shortcoming is the lack of memorable “hooks," - it doesn't have a "single" or high-rotation song.

Las Vegas has no shortage of advertising.  Thumbing through "Las Vegas Magazine" in my hotel,  I found that Trower was playing Saturday night at the Boulder Station Casino. I wasn't expecting to do anything special that Saturday night, but... heck, why not? Leaving my wife to finalize her preparations for her wholesale craft show (translated: with her permission), off I went to explore.

The venue, known as Railhead, is a small auditorium built within the casino area of Boulder Station, an off-Strip “resort” which includes a hotel, food court, movie theaters, restaurants…the usual Vegas "large size fits all" recipe. Railhead has a wide seating area, but it is not particularly deep, with capacity of 6-700. I suppose it’s Vegas fashion, but it was the first time I’ve entered into a venue to be greeted by a handful of 21-22 year old cocktail waitresses hoisting a tray full of beers on a tray, already poured.

I ended up talking to a nearby stage security "tough guy," who wasn't so tough at all.  He was wearing the required dark clothes and black jacket, but he was a very pleasant 6th grade teacher, 5 years from retirement. As a zillion crazed groupies aren't going to try to rush the stage at a Robin Trower concert, he was quite conversational as standing around looking tough can get quite boring, it seems. 

He had seen Trower there the year before, and had signed up for the concert for the repeat and because he liked the venue, where shows start promptly at 8:00 and end an hour and a half later. 90 minutes, fixed? Well, it is Vegas. It’s apparently in each artist’s contract not to play longer than that, pending penalties. I guess they want people back out at the one-button bandits or card tables ASAP.

As promised, Trower started promptly at 8:00. His band included a snappy drummer that added some flourishes to supplement Trower’s guitar, a “happy just to be there” bassist, and an aging vocalist who gave it all he had, his sincerity never ranking more than passable, however.  All three were ultimately pointless, as Trower’s guitar is what the show is all about.

Trower reminds me, in a way, of Rory Gallagher, an all but forgotten Irish blues guitarist who also had his heyday in the 70’s. The songs of both these artists never managed much attention, but basically set a beat and a mood for the guitar pyrotechnics to unfold during the "solo."  And that's exactly what Trower did. At 64, he remains a nimble and energetic performer, who still loves his music LOUD. Backed by two Marshall amplifiers, the sound of his Fender Strat was amplified so that he could find (and we could hear) every nuance he desired, often ending a run on favored ear-splitting notes. Whether a great guitar solo begets crowd reaction, or vice versa, it was about the 30 minute mark when Trower became obviously into what he was doing, with some amazing solos.

As for the crowd, they were definitely into it, with many long time fans who knew his songs much better than I did.  The standout for me was, you guessed it,Current publicity photo "Bridge of Sighs," a slow burner which features a guitar riff worthy of Jimmy Page.

Other than one noted 9 or 10 year old, I was probably the youngest person there. It was a very receptive rather than energetic audience, as almost everyone remained in their seats until near the end, though there were shouts and a lot of fist pumping from the crowd. He certainly made the most of his 90 minutes as one song all but sequed into the next, and as he’ll be in Atlanta in the fall, I may find myself in the audience again when he has a little more time.  And if so, I'll be sure to claim a spot, oh, possibly on the left side of the stage where the action is.

Robin Trower at Boulder Station 5/30/09

The crowd was also remarkably observant on the rule regarding digital cameras. As my iPhone proves, it’s not a digital camera.  If anyone cares to recommend a pocket sized camera that works well at concerts, please comment.  Anyway, from what appears to be a show within the last couple years:

 

                                    trower autograph                                                As a notable extra, he was also very patient in signing autographs afterwards, which was, at times, an awkward exercise while waiting for fans to figure out their cameras.

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