Robin Trower Stockton Arc April 7th 2015
Robin Trower pursed his lips, sucked in his cheeks, closed his eyes, gave that familiar grimace and squeezed sounds out of his Strat that only Trower can. The wah wah peddle rose slowly to prolong those chords, and the unique blend of rock, funk and soul that has become Trower’s trademark kept a packed Arc enthralled. Robin Trower celebrated his 70th birthday a few weeks ago, and he continues to tour and record. This was the first time I’ve seen Trower live for a few years and his band has reverted to the familiar power trio format that he favoured throughout the 1970s, and returning to that format seems to have injected renewed power and energy.
Robin has a new album, and the set includes songs from the new release along with those old classics he just has to play. Why, he even takes lead vocals on a few of the tracks, his deep, raspy voice adding a bluesy edge to the songs, and reminding me a little of Tony McPhee and the Groundhogs.
I was standing close to the front and was totally mesmerised by his performance; the guy is playing as fluidly as ever. And the band is strong and powerful with a young bass player from the James Dewar school of soulful voices. Highlights of the night were, for me, the old familiar tunes. “Bridge of Sighs” never fails to impress, and “Day of the Eagle” rocks the same as it always did. The first encore was the track that first got me into Trower’s music; “Too Rolling Stoned”. Excellent. Support came from Joanne Shaw Taylor whose blues rock set won over a lot of new fans.
Setlist: Somebody Calling, Rise Up Like the Sun, See My Life, Daydream, Lady Love, Something’s About to Change, Day of the Eagle, Bridge of Sighs, Confessin’ Midnight, The Turning, Not Inside – Outside, Little Bit of Sympathy
Encore: Too Rolling Stoned, For Earth Below
Many thanks to Mitch for his photo of Robin and band
Robin Trower South Shields Customs House 17th April 2005
Roll forward 25 years, and I was seeing Robin Trower again. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, and had all but forgotten many of the songs because, although I have a few of his albums on vinyl, the only one I played was “Bridge of Sighs” and to be truthful, I hadn’t played that for a long time. I needed have worried. Trower walked on stage, waved at the audience, and launched straight into “Too Rolling Stoned”. I immediately recognised the riff, and the years melted away. The guitar playing was as excellent as ever, with the familiar heavy use of wah-wah, and the usual twisting of the face, as Robin squeezed the notes out of his strat.
The singer was Davey Pattison, who I’d seen before many years ago in Ronnie Montrose’s band Gamma, and he did a great job, sticking closely to the original vocal. He has a soulful voice, which matched somewhat the original vocals of the late and very under-rated James Dewar. The mix was a little murky at the start of the set, with the vocals lost in the mix, but things improved as the set progressed. Trower and his band were great, playing a mix of tracks from throughout his career. It was great to see him again.
The gig was reviewed Rahul Shrivastava for the BBC website: “There are no gimmicks, no light show, just four men playing great, bluesy rock ‘n’ roll….there was no denying the passion with which he played his instrument.” The review sparked a few comments from others who attended the gig: “It’s over 25 yrs since I saw Robin at Hammersmith Odeon; always wanted to do so again. So good was this gig that both me and my wife were lost for words… Awesome” (SteV1Da).
“To experience Robin Trower is to be a witness to the mastery of true artistry created on the electric guitar. How rich in talent Robin, and a great few are part of an incredible music history…” (Michael Gibbs). “They used to say that this guy was a ‘Hendrix clone’ Well all I can say is that if Hendrix could play like that he must have been some guitarist! The control and pure artistry were a delight and I hope that this is the first of many returns to the North East.” (Chas Thomason).
Setlist: Too Rolling Stoned; Sweet Angel; What’s Your Name; Rise Up Like The Sun; Daydream; Living Out Of Time; Breathless; Day Of The Eagle; Bridge Of Sighs; Close Every Door; I Want You To Love Me; Please Tell Me; Another Time, Another Place; Little Bit of Sympathy
Encore: Come To Me; Secret Place
Thanks to John for the poster image and for the photo which he got signed for me at a Trower gig in the States.
I’ve seen Trower once more since, and have already written about that gig.
Robin Trower Newcastle City Hall 12th February 1980
In 1980 Robin Trower released his seventh studio album “Victims of the Fury”, and went out on tour to promote it. Support for the tour was NWOBHM band Samson. I saw the tour was it called at Newcastle City Hall. It was a few years since I’d seen Robin Trower in concert and I was really looking forward to seeing him again. It was the last night of the tour and the band were on their usual amazing form.
It is unfair to draw too many comparisons between Trower and Hendrix. Although Trower has undoubtedly been influenced by the master, and has said so himself on several occasions, he has his own unique guitar style, and is himself a true master of the guitar. Sadly whenever conversation turns to classic guitar greats the names of Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Richie Blackmore, Alvin Lee and Peter Green will be mentioned, but it isn’t that often that Trower gets a mention. That’s a shame because his playing stands up their with those greats.
Robert Fripp, another guitar great, recognises this and says so in the liner notes on the reissues of one of Robin’s solo albums (1996): “Robin Trower is one of the very few English guitarists that have mastered bends and wobbles. Not only has he got inside them, with an instinctive knowing of their affective power, but they went to live inside his hands. It is the rare English guitarist who has been able to stand alongside American guitarists and play with an equal authority to someone grounded in a fundamentally American tradition. Trower has been widely criticised for his influences. This has never bothered me. I toured America in 1974 with Ten Years After top of the bill, King Crimson second, and Robin Trower bottom. The chart positions were the opposite….. Nearly every night I went out to listen to him. This was a man who hung himself on the details: the quality of sound, nuances of each inflection and tearing bend, and abandonment to the feel of the moment. He saved my life. Later, in England, he gave me guitar lessons.”
Back to the City Hall concert. It was classic Trower drawing for throughout his solo career and starting with the beautiful “Lady Love”. They also played my favourites “Bridge Of Sighs” and “Too Rolling Stoned”. Great stuff.
I found a review of the concert on Robin Trower’s official site, by Alan Howard, who drove with his friend from London especially to see the last night of the tour, having already seen the show at Hammersmith a few days before: “The good people of Toon town just went absolutely mental, so delighted they were to see the band. What a great start! So it continued. For some reason, this audience were much more appreciative and vocal than their southern counterparts….It was a great show featuring once again the ‘Victims’ lightshow visuals with their distinctive neon barbed wire icon, as featured on the album cover.”
Set List: Lady Love; The Ring; Day Of The Eagle; Bridge Of Sighs; Jack And Jill; Too Rolling Stoned; The Shout/Hannah; Daydream; Victims Of The Fury; Only Time; Madhouse; Little Bit Of Sympathy.
Encores: Messin The Blues; Rock Me Baby.
Thanks to John for the image of his Trower “flash”.
Tomorrow I’ll roll forward and write about a more recent Trower gig.
Robin Trower Newcastle City Hall 22nd Feb 1976
Come 1976 and Robin Trower was one of the most popular acts in the country. He toured the UK in February and March calling at the City Hall for two nights this time, and closing the tour by playing to 8,000 fans at Wembley Empire Pool. Support for the tour was local north east pop rock act John Miles. I remember driving through to the City Hall to buy tickets the day they went on sale. It had been snowing heavily and the roads were quite treacherous. My mate and I watched in horror as the car in front of us slid off the road and into the trees at the side of the carriageway. We made our way safely to the box office and bought tickets for the first night.
The concert was excellent, with Trower on top form, his feet surrounded by an array of effects pedals which enabled him to create some unbelievable sounds with his trusty Fender Strat. The Trower band had changed slightly with a new drummer Bill Lordan playing alongside Trower and Dewar. They were tight and loud, and delighted the City Hall crowd with classics like “Bridge of Sighs”, “Lady Love” and my fave “Too Rolling Stoned”, tracks from their current, third, album “For Earth Below” and a couple of new songs which would feature on the fourth album “Long Misty Days”. Brian Harrigan reviewed the Wembley gig for Melody Maker: “There ain’t nothing like Robin Trower at full blast……in the cavernous Wembley Empire Pool, they thundered like a three-man blitzkrieg.”
Typical 1976 setlist: Day of the Eagle; Bridge of Sighs; Sailing; Lady Love; Long Misty Days; The Fool and Me; Too Rolling Stoned; Daydream; Same Rain Falls; I Can’t Wait Much Longer; Alethea; Little Bit of Sympathy; Rock Me Baby; S.M.O.
Many thanks to Mitch for his photo of Trower which was taken at this concert.
Robin Trower live 1973, Newcastle City Hall 11th Feb 1975, and Reading 1975
I first became aware of Robin Trower in Procol Harum and then when he played Sunderland Poly’s Wearmouth Hall in the band Jude. Jude also featured Frankie Miller, ex Jethro Tull drummer Clive Bunker and bassist Jimmy Dewar who had just left Stone The Crows. I have very vague recollections of that gig, and can’t be certain I was present or whether I simply heard about it from mates, but I’m pretty sure that it happened. Jude didn’t last long, and Trower soon formed his own band, retaining Dewar as his bassist and lead vocalist, and drummer Reg Isidore. The first time I can definitely recall seeing Trower live was when he supported Nazareth at Sunderland Locarno in June 1973. My mates and I were big Nazareth fans and went to see the tour at Newcastle Mayfair a couple of weeks later, and saw Trower again. We watched Trower on both occasions; this was at the time of his first album “Twice Removed from Yesterday”. I was impressed by his Hendrix-like guitar playing and the faces which he pulled, which looked like he was in pain, as he squeezed riffs out of his Stratocaster. You could tell that the guy was playing from the heart.
Trower speaking to Steven Rosen (Los Angeles Free Press, November 1973): “It’s not just a trio, it’s the right trio with Reggie and Jimmy. It’s not just because I’m the lead guitarist that it’s gonna happen; I mean I’m not just into guitar, I’m into making good music . . . great music. And I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t think it was a lot better than what I’d done before……I’m very influenced by Hendrix, and I’m the first to admit it; everything I do is inevitable and I can’t not be influenced by him. Anybody who’s got any ears and plays the guitar or who’s got any musical sense at all could not but be influenced by Hendrix. It’s like you can’t write unless you learn A-B-C. Everybody else was just f***ing about. He made real music on guitar and not just licks on top of somebody else’s music.” Robin Trower took Hendrix’s music and moved in to the next level. He blended Hendrix’ guitar style and technique with moody blues-rock and a little funkiness. It was as if we were witnessing the music that Hendrix might have played if he hadn’t passed away so early. And Jimmy Dewar had a great soulful voice. Trower’s most famous album is, of course, Bridge of Sighs, which he released in 1974, and the title track is a classic of atmospheric rock.
The next time I saw Trower live in concert he was headlining at Newcastle City Hall and it was February 1975. This was classic Robin Trower, the guy was at his best during this period, and the set will have included “Day of the Eagle” (often the opening song, and a track that features in his live sets to this day), the excellent rocker “Too Rolling Stoned” (another great live classic), “Lady Love” and of course “Bridge of Sighs”. My unofficial programme contains a flyer for Rainbow Cottage, so I suspect they may have been the support act for the City Hall concert.
John’s memories of the City Hall gig: “Even though I only saw Robin Trower once in the 70’s I was fortunate to witness a fantastic gig with Robin at the height of his prowess and playing the Bridge of Sighs material with passion and power. I was siting downstairs fairly near the stage and was overwhelmed by the material and his talent. The set opened with Day of the Eagle, featured Bridge of Sighs, Too Rolling Stoned, Lady Love and Little Bit of Sympathy which I think closed the set. While I am less certain I think he also played Rock Me Baby and a slower blues number which might have been I Cant Wait Much Longer. I also remember that he wore a green jumpsuit with the pants tucked into some fringed brown suede boots which I was not sure was too cool at the time. James Dewar’s vocals were also a highlight and the show and his performance on About to Begin remains one of my favorites to this day.”
I saw Trower again at the Reading festival in August 1975, where he delivered a blistering set and was called back for several encores.
Typical Trower setlist from 1975: Day of the Eagle; Bridge of Sighs; Gonna Be More Suspicious; Fine Day; Lady Love; Spellbound; Too Rolling Stoned; I Can’t Wait Much Longer; Alethea; Little Bit of Sympathy
Many thanks to Mitch for his photo of Trower onstage at the City Hall on 22nd February 1976, and to John for the image of his poster from the period.
Robin Trower Newcastle Academy 16 Sep 2010
Will and I went to see Robin Trower at the Academy on Thursday night. Support came from King King who are increasingly becoming known as one of the country’s top blues bands. The hall was quite empty when they came on, but they didn’t let that detract from their performance which was great. Some excellent guitar work from front man Alan Nimmo. At one point he was playing his Strat acoustically and signing without any mikes or accompaniment; great use of dynamics.
The hall had filled to a respectable crowd by the time Trower took to the stage. He still plays guitar as he always did, and still pulls some frightening faces as he squeezes those licks out of his Fender. The singer is the same guy that Will and I saw with him a few years ago when we saw him at South Shields, I can’t be sure if the other members of the band are the same. I can’t say that I recognised that many of the songs but old favourites Bridge of Sighs, Lady Love and Too Rolling Stoned sounded as good as ever. A good gig by an old timer who is still a master of the guitar.
Robin Trower site: http://www.trowerpower.com/
King KIng site: http://www.kingkingblues.com/
I hate printed tickets