Robin Trower – Variety Playhouse Concert Review

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This was my third time seeing Robin Trower, the first being in May, 2009.  I enjoyed that show, but it was only after that show that I really began to listen to his music, and, likely opposite his legions of fans, predominantly his new material.

Both on record and live, his nuance of tone, control, and expression warmed my ears to what he was about.  I saw him at Variety again in 2009, more familiar with his songs and was blown away, both by his skills and the volume.

Fast forward 5 years, which seems impossible, and he’s back.  This time, I returned with my son in tow.  After a great burger at Vortex, we waited in line outside the venue and listened to Trower’s older faithful recollect “that time back in...,” “new music sucks,” “damn the wealthy and Republicans,” and similar as they admired each others concert T-shirts from some time ago.   So we waited almost an hour, with plenty of folks in front and later behind, and they would all eventually fill the place as it was a sold-out show (capacity ~1,100).

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As disclosed, they were all older folks, standing in line for an hour so they could find seats for the show.   There’s an irony in that which I’ll explain in a bit.  When the doors opened, they all found seats, ignoring the standing area in front of the stage.   This was outstanding for a guy who likes to take pictures and for a son who might learn a trick or two watching Trower do his thing. 

After a brief, obligatory opening act, Trower took the stage.  He’s jettisoned his previous touring band and gone to a trio.  To my ears, the drummer, Chris Taggart, provided a bigger punch when needed and was otherwise very adept at whatever style was needed.  The rhythm section was a step up.  The bassist/vocalist I really can’t comment on as he couldn’t be heard much in my corner, Trower’s Marshall amps being the culprit.

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And that’s okay, because to a person, no one is really there to hear the song lyrics.  It’s about the man with the guitar.

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This was probably the finest concert of his I’ve seen.  Trower seemed energized and very much into his performance, despite an all but absent repartee with the crowd.  “Thank you” was pretty much the sum of it. 

It’s also interesting that Trower sounded so fresh because the set list (at end of this post) has been static this tour.   I’ve previously commented that his show in Vegas was 90 minutes.  I assumed it was a venue restriction to get the fans back out in the casino.  Only, he did the same when I saw him at Variety.  This time, the full set was done in one hour (remember all those older fans who stood so they could sit?  Irony.)  After two minutes, at most, he returned to play two songs in a 15 minute encore.

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All too brief. 

In part recognizing Bridge of Sigh’s 40th anniversary, Trower played 5 songs from his classic album, the most sterling of which was an inspired silo for the title track.  If there’s a bone to pick, “That’s Alright Mama” is a nice cover tune, but if he wants to please from his Roots and Branches CD, “Hard to Thrill” was there for the taking.   It’s about the guitar, not the song.  And if there was a surprise, it was that Trower sang two of his newer songs, which he seems to have been reluctant to do in the other tours. 

Otherwise, Trower has a fairly simple pedal setup, and there’s only a couple of buttons that he uses to alter his sound beyond the base configuration.  Other than using a Wah, it’s just him getting every sound out of his guitar.  Perhaps other guitar makers might also take note of his Stratocaster, because I only observed him make one minor tuning adjustment throughout the show.  On the other hand, if he had to tune more often, maybe he would chat with the audience...

My favorites were “See My Life,” “The Turning,” “Little Bit of Sympathy,” and, of course, “Bridge of Sighs.”

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For those who enjoy the many expressions of Trower as he shapes his notes, I took lots of pictures.

4 of 5 STARS

 

 

Set List:

Somebody Calling
Rise Up Like the Sun
See My Life
Daydream
Lady Love
Snakes & Ladders
Day of the Eagle
Bridge of Sighs
That’s Alright Mama
Confessing Midnight
Little Red Rooster
The Turning
Not Inside Outside
Little Bit of Sympathy

Encore:

Too Rolling Stoned
For Earth Below

1 comment :

  1. Great review Reece. Would have loved to have caught this one with you guys. I got lazy and planned to check the show here in Chattanooga... Oops, that didn't pan out.

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