Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Rockin' Robin

Robin Trower: Channeling Deep, Hypnotic Blues

I've never heard the volume cranked up to 11 at Alexandria's famous Birchmere before, but I'm sure I saw the roof rising off the building from the sheer sound and spectacle of Robin Trower's brilliant performance there last Sunday, the 9th of March. The packed house celebrated the legendary guitarist's 63rd birthday in fine style, and Mr. Trower obligingly gave a non-stop, pedal to the metal performance par excellence. The well-rehearsed quartet, including Pete Thompson on drums, and former Gamma band alumnae Glenn Letsch on bass, and vocalist Davey Pattison flew through a solid 90 minutes of Trower's trademark blistering psychedelic blues, indulging the audience in extended romps and atmospheric solos.

Mr. Trower also joined us for an interview backstage after soundcheck, to be aired on 1600 sometime in the next few weeks. He discussed his long and well-documented career, some of the master musicians with whom he has and continues to work, the new "Seven Moons" CD, collaborating again with his old friend Jack Bruce, for perhaps their most powerful venture together yet. And while we were expecting to hear some of it live, Robin stuck to older material, as the new CD had not been available for long and he didn't think that enough fans would be familiar with it. (Cue the fanbelt, Steve!)

The band started early, and wasted no time launching into a driving, blues-drenched attack. They opened with the title cut from Trower's 1975 debut, Twice Removed From Yesterday, immediately capturing the attentive audience and establishing that he was not there to play a lightweight, mellow set, and even did a bit of vocalizing himself. They followed immediately with another fan favorite, Shame the Devil, and a soulful reading of the title track also from his 1975 solo debut, For Earth Below, which set the mood for a very memorable performance. In between, the crowd offered a brief serenade of their own to Robin, wishing him a happy birthday and many more years of rockin' our socks off!

In rapid-fire succession came a wealth of classic Trower tunes, including The Fool and Me, a rocking Day of the Eagle, Bridge of Sighs, A Little Bit of Sympathy, and Too Rolling Stoned from what is probably his best known work, the psychedelic masterpiece "Bridge of Sighs." The title cut was especially moving: a slow, deep blues that wound around the room, enveloping the transfixed audience in a plush sonic cocoon, and sweeping them away. The guitarist's technique and flair were further showcased on Gonna Be More Suspicious,with a lilting Hannah, Victims of the Fury, and the thoughtful Another Time, Another Place (as captured on Trower's recent live disc, the 2006 CD "Living Out of Time- Live") were other highlights rounding out a fine set. The band largely relied on Trower's first three records, all of which sounded as crisp and retained every measure of the power they had thirty years ago.

I'm not sure how much of a new following Trower will find, forty years into an exceptional career of making unique and engaging music. On the other hand, this was among those rare shows when we actually saw people at the show that looked even older than us, if you can believe that! But for interested novices, I would encourage seeking out 1991's "The Essential Robin Trower" for a good primer, featuring several of the highlights we heard that night. The previously mentioned live album, the classics "Bridge of Sighs" and "For Earth Below," and many more recent recordings, including the 2005 release "Another Day's Blues," and his latest album, "Seven Moons," all deliver satisfying and timeless rock and roll that sounds fresh yet familiar at the same time. Ya pretty much can't go wrong.

Thanks again to Robin, his tour manager Laurie Brace, publicist David Maida of Rising Talent Group, and John Brinegar and our good friends at the Birchmere for another memorable evening in their good company! We'll be back- and SOON!

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