Robin Trower - Live @ Variety Playhouse

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It's not common for me to see any artist in concert twice, so seeing Robin Trower twice in the same year is something of a surprise.  Especially considering that before I saw him in Las Vegas, I didn't own any of his albums and wasn't that familiar with his work.

But Las Vegas was a good show, and for half the price, his tour continued through Atlanta last night.  I had some friends that wanted to see him, and that was enough of an excuse for an evening out.  Variety Playhouse is my favorite concert venue locally - you can get close to the stage if you arrive early enough, and even if you're in the back, there's still a good view and good audio as well.

The only negative from the Vegas show was that my assigned seat was far afield to the right of stage.  Trower plays on the left hand side, and he doesn't make an effort to turn one way or another to allow the full audience to watch him play his Stratocaster.  Therefore: get there early; claim stage left.

What to do about dinner then?  We ventured to one of many colorful dining spots in Atlanta's Five Points neighborhood, this time visiting The Vortex.  This restaurant made some news recently when it decided to disallow those under 18 years old and remain a bar - with smoking allowed.  It had been a fairly popular place for area families to go for hamburgers, but they chose their direction and are proud of it.  Does it look like the kind of place you would want to take your kids?  (Sorry.  Wait until they're old enough to smoke.)


We ate in an upstairs area that happened to be free of smokers during our stay, and the jerk burger (served with Ruinationtater tots) was as good as advertised, though I'd probably try a different burger next time.  This was accompanied by Stone Brewery's Ruination India Pale Ale, which said "hoppy!" from the first taste.  By far, this was the liveliest and best IPA I've had to date.  The label on the bottle was an entertaining read as well.


Anyway, Variety Playhouse is a converted movie theater, complete with seats.  We arrived to find most of these occupied, but, amazingly, no one was standing in the open floor area in front of the stage.  We set the trend, and others quickly followed.  This is when General Admission tickets really pay off.Marshall Ruffin Trio

The Marshall Ruffin Trio was the opening act.   I'd never heard of them, which isn't unusual for opening acts.  Mr. Ruffin played an energized set, his lyrics included some Christian themes, and his hollow body arch top guitar - made in 1964 by a maker I couldn't read - had a great tone.  He was supported by seemingly the happiest person to ever bang a drum and a talented stand up bassist.  Great start to the evening.

As for Robin Trower, it was a solid show. Robin Trower - Variety Playhouse

The set list was quite a bit different from Vegas, but his show still clocked  in at 90 minutes.  It's apparent that not all of the solos are pre-planned as "Bridge of Sighs," likely the fans' favorite, enjoyed a lengthy solo.  It must be a boring gig to be in his supporting cast, as they basically exist to keep a beat and set things up for the next solo.Robin Trower - Variety Playhouse

Trower is a very skilled guitarist, and watching him, he feels the sounds he's playing as evidenced through a variety of facial distortions.  Guitarists tend to find a "sound" that suits them - Trower has a different tone that doesn't necessarily tend to sparkle on solos, although the same notes played by Santana or Clapton might. 

Robin Trower - Variety Playhouse It also seemed he remains detached from the public venue and concentrates fully on the sounds from his guitar.  He rarely acknowledged the crowd but seemed to fully enjoy just playing his songs, whether or not someone was listening.

And that translates to his sound.  His songs don't tend to be emotional by the notes he chooses, butRobin Trower - Variety Playhouse rather he focuses on getting an exacting  "sound" out of the guitar - it could be said that he plays from a different place, but he's true to that vision.  It's difficult to describe, but at the amplification levels he uses, even the slightest tones have to be made with perfect execution - perhaps with the cost being a song's potential. 

That said, aside from the rousing version of "Bridge of Sighs," my favorite was "Time and Emotion," an instrumental from his last CD that holds up as well or better as much of his earlier work... and which, expectedly, took me back to memories of driving through Death Valley.

And that's pretty much a summary of the concert.  His songs generally lack memorable tunes and the guitar solos are technically stellar.  Despite holding a defining place in the development of rock trios, Trower will likely remain one of the lesser known Guitar Heroes.

Still, at age 64, I can only hope that I'll still want to listen to rock music, and, as impressively, want it LOUD.

1 comment :

  1. I was there, Long time huge fan of Trower. This was the first time I saw him. Great Show.