It had been almost 16 years since I last saw Robin live and that was with Jimmy and Bill on the Victims of the Fury
Tour. On that occasion my dad didn't go to the gig, so I was really pleased that both he and my step mum (both big Trower fans) could join me on the trip from where we live in the Reading area to Southampton
for Robin's gig at the Brook.
It was a pleasantly mild evening and we got parked up behind the Brook very easily. My dad couldn't believe that Robin was really playing such a small venue as he
remembered the days when the Trower Band were headling the arenas in the States (cf. 'the Day on the Green) and meeting Any Warhol backstage at Madison Square Gardens. We all agreed however that we'd much
rather see Robin at such an intimate venue but I guess we still had to pinch ourselves that we weren't just going to see a Trower 'tribute band'.
After a rather nice Thai meal and a beer in a nearby bar we
queued up outside the venue and a decent sized line had formed. It was really interesting taking in the other fans both in terms of their age distribution, gender and fashion. There was a good mixture of
all of these, but the dominant feature was definitely middle aged-to late middle aged men. My dad is nearly 67 (verging on elderly) but I don't think he was the oldest! Long live 'Rock and Roll'!
Inside The Brook, we went upstairs and narrowly missed out on a seat around the upper balcony. We grabbed a drink and went downstairs and made our way to the front. There weren't too many people
downstairs when the support (Jon Amor) began to play, but by the time Robin and the band made their way on to the stage it was quite packed.
As Robin plugged in his 'signature' Stratocaster I turned to
my dad and we both had very broad 'Cheshire Cat' grins on our faces and I for one was tingling and quite tense with excitement and anticipation.
Robin immediately burst into 'Twice Removed' and the volume was
pretty deafening. I think the amplification was probably slightly too much for the Brook and to some degree Davey Pattison's voice tended to get drowned out which is a shame because he is a great
vocalist. Still, the band was 'smoking' and Robin's playing was just absolutely out of this world. The whole band was in great form, but it was hard to take my eyes off of the 'main man'. Rather
than review every single song I will just concentrate on trying to put across some of my overall impressions of the gig and particularly Robin's playing.
First off, Robin has never really gotten the critical
acclaim and credit he deserves for without doubt he is one of the best guitarists of his genre and at The Brook he proved it. His playing went beyond the notes and the technicalities and as Hendrix once said
it's not about hitting the notes it's about the feeling. Like Hendrix, Robin's playing comes from somewhere deep inside and connects with something universal that is just so soulful and even at times mournful
I guess it's the blues but it is taking the blues to a higher dimension. Anyway my favourite songs on the night were 'Hannah', ‘Another Time, Another Place', ‘Lady Love' and
'Roads To Freedom', but on 'Daydream' he just took off to somewhere else and his mastery of his instrument just shone through...in fact at times it was though he was fused to the guitar and it wasn't a separate
instrument but an extension of the man himself....Awesome (as they say in the States).
I did manage to shake Davey Pattison's hand and I would have loved to have hung around and meet Robin and the rest
of the band, but as I had work the next day we had to get back to Berkshire. Still with our ears ringing and our memories fresh with Robin's virtuosity and the bands energy we drove happily back
north....but I hope it's not another 16 years until I see the man again.
Reviewed by Steve Maddox, Wokingham, Berkshire
My day started waiting in anticipation for long time friend and fellow Trower cohort Martin Hughes to pick me up
for the drive down to Southampton, the seafaring town on the south coast, in his set of new wheels. "I've got a new motor and I'll pick you up, it's my turn to drive" he had told me earlier in the week so
I didn't argue.
He wouldn't elaborate on what it was and I didn't enquire further as I could see he wanted it to be a surprise. After all this was our ninth Mr T gig in a year and we had got into the habit
of making the most of it and the journey to, and from, the gig was always part of the experience.
Martin duly arrived on time and in style. I could see it was him coming up the road in his newly acquired
metallic blue Renault 'Avantime', what a fantastic piece of kit, and we were going to the gig in this I thought! I rushed out to meet the man at the helm and after a quick tour round the
vehicle we were off,
talking a mix of design, vital statistics and directions. We were on a high already and soon settled in to a groove jawing at a rate of knots.
However, 12 miles is a long time in petrol speak and just as we
exited Westerham, a blend of ocean liner super smoothness and well intentioned but soporific reporting (like that bloke with the long hair on Top Gear) took over and had made me somewhat drowsy so I thought I would
sneak forty winks and have a doze until we hit the M3; it wasn't far away and if the car was this smooth on the 'A' road what must it be like on the motorway?
I could blag Martin by umming and ahhing to his,
by this time, some what incoherent Createur D' Automobiles conversation. His enthusiasm knew no bounds but for me the ‘talkathon’ was over and was just at the point of drifting into oblivion when I vaguely
remember the captain changing tack by muttering something about 'Bridge of Sighs' and bonus tracks. Now we're speaking I thought - but the apnoea just got the better of me...Zzzzz'z.
Then all hell let loose.
It was the opening chord strumming of 'Day of the Eagle', cranked right up to max on the CD player, Dada dah Dada dah Dada dah Dada dah, the cheeky beggar had set the alarm to LOUD, I nearly jumped out of my skin.
Conversation (shouting) turned to Trower and for the rest of the journey we listened to the remastered BOS album in it's full glory, I had never heard it like this, absolutely amazing and the scene was set...
Farther on up the road a quick stop at the services met with a chance encounter with Alan and Duncan who told us they had been looking after Steve Shail and we would all meet up at the gig. "We'll meet
again..." and all that as we flashed passed them up the motorway.
As we approached 'The Brook' we decided to stop by and see what promo material was about (none) and to remind ourselves what the venue
was like (in the middle of nowhere) and how much we enjoyed last years gig (superb). A funny thing then happened and we don't know how it came about but we ended up watching the band for a few minutes doing the
sound check, amazing stuff
but we both agreed we felt a bit out of place so after a quick introduction to Mr Shail (hail, hail) we sloped off to The Mitre, Portswood's finest ale house.
On our return to
The Brook we found we were first in the queue and kept ourselves amused until we were let in sometime after 8.00pm and rushed up stairs to grab a seat, as we had agreed we wanted to sit down this time round (sad!).
We found two seats conveniently positioned next to Mr Shail (wished we had time to chat more, but thanks for the marvellous work you do) and the omnipotent duo of Alan and Duncan (oh no, not you two again, haven't
we seen you somewhere before?).
Anyway, heavily into beer and conversation, the next thing we knew support Jon Amor is on doing his excellent warm up act. I think he's such a great guy and writes memorable
tunes that stick in your head. Only down side was his cue to finish came too early and he only managed to get in five numbers, such a shame, but he did get the crowd very well fired up.
And so to the bit we
had all been waiting for.... You know when Bronzie comes on to the stage and does his tune up bit that it's not long to go and so, with our expectations up a short while later the band arrive on stage to a great
reception from the capacity crowd. We can't believe our luck again.
The opening number 'Twice Removed from Yesterday' brings all the memories flooding back. There's nothing like live music and nothing like
hearing it from your hero. The beauty of live music is that it's never the same and you always hear something different and tonight was going to be no exception.
'Hannah' follows with Davey in fine form as his vocal chords have warmed but it took to the middle of 'Roads to Freedom' for the sound to
settle in my ears. By this time the band had got into the groove, and so had we, and there was nothing stopping them. Robin's tone on 'Roads' was just lovely.
The set list was the standard for this tour
except 'Sweet Little Angel', dropped for time scale reasons according to Alan.
I was looking forward to 'Too Much Joy' and '20th Century Blues' and wasn't disappointed with either, great to hear these numbers
live. I was intrigued to see how they are played although 'Too Much Joy' did differ from the album it worked well and as for 20th CB, that's pure Rock 'n' Roll for you!
'Islands' always gets me going, a
beautiful track but to me it's not necessarily about what is played but the atmosphere that is created (although there is one number (BOS) that is de rigueur and I can't imagine Robin not doing it).
plenty of bonhomie evident in the band (they have really loosened up and the on-stage dynamics were different) and Robin was very appreciative of a very appreciative crowd (who were brilliant).
Davey in great
form and much credit to DB and PT for keeping the whole thing together. I thought Pete's playing was really rockin', and as for Dave well he's extraordinary - Mr Supercool. The band complements Robin so well.
High-light of the evening for me, was by far and away, 'Bridge of Sighs', a remarkable piece of work, and tonight's version which must be rate as one of the best. I can't say enough about this song as it is so
difficult to find the right words (it's not about words anyway). The feeling you get from the opening hammer on and pull off intro after 'Day of the Eagle' (also a fantastic version tonight with that classic Trower
sound and tone), through Davey's superb delivery of the vocals (matched by Robin's economical backing guitar) to the masterful solo.
I was completely mesmerised, this was a story in it's self, Robin
extracting every emotion possible. I drifted away with fairies during the whole number.. Absolutely stunning, I didn't want it to end and would have been more than happy for solo to go on to closing time!
But alas it doesn't end there. We were later treated to a great version of 'Too Rolling Stoned' with some lovely tone and attack that only Robin knows how. "Too rolling stoned yeh, yeh"
evening moved on and so did I as I moved to the front of the stage for the last three numbers. The sound at ground level seemed much better, more open, especially for Davey's vocals and I was lucky to get a
different slant on 'Little Bit of Sympathy', Lady Love and 'Daydream'.
After all is said and done great gig, great venue, great crowd, a most memorable night. Mean Fiddler here we come!
John Waters, Bromley and Martin Hughes, Beckenham,Kent.