For the British, and this is especially true of Londoners, Catford-boy ROBIN TROWER is “the guitarist with Procol Harum.”
“But what has he been doing since?” Asked a guy ahead of me in the queue outside the admirable Islington Assembly Hall in London on Tuesday.
“Well,” I explained. “He has transcended into a truly self-sufficient blues guitarist. Of the highest possible rank and importance.”
And it’s true. Trower, whose expressive and lyrical guitar-play is often-times compared with the great Albert King has released plenty of brilliant solo recordings since 1971.
So, to be fair, his Procol Harum days are hardly relevant now.
In the 1980s he worked with bassist Jack Bruce [and two other drummers] to create Creamish power-trios, but his legacy & life’s work — and the reason for his widespread admiration in the United States — is his twenty-plus solo albums. And Robin is still pedalling.
So to see the great man on stage, in the “Town Hall” was such a thrill.
That big toothy smile brought a huge round of applause as he entered the stage.
His white hair is now so hyperfine it resembles cotton fibers.
His body has always been super-thin and angular, but now the guitar seems too big for him.
We were treated to a show that left some gasping and others in tears.
In amongst the recent material we were treated to all the Hendrixy funk & grit the 6-string magic-man is famous for.
For example, he brought us fiery songs such as “Confessin’ Midnight” [Bridge of Sighs] that had clamant riffs, clever trills, and constant surprises. For those in the know, this number includes one of the best breaks in rock history. Acidic and galvanizing.
Similarly, “Daydream” whose fruity-sweet notes are so reminiscent of “Little Wing.”
That was probably a high-point for us. The song spoke to our hearts. In the Town Hall’s ‘dress circle’ we were literally spellbound
When Trower took to the microphone [some songs were delivered by his bassist] those long-vowels in his gravel-voice now seem to have American inflections. Where some lyrics were earnest — brooding and meditative even —others were a joy.
Trower smiles often. And we know why … He’s a man at peace with himself and his music.
At the Islington Assembly I chatted to a chap who told me he had urged his son to come along:
“My son is in a bad place right now.” He said “I thought that the lad needed healing, so offered to take him to some blues … Nah! He said. It is not for me Dad. I do not do music… ”
“Then there is no hope for him ...” I thought. The old man agreed.
Because songs like “Sweet Delusion Delusion” — although full of groovy impulses and boogie-down touches — has valuable therapeutic benefits.
This song, like many others, provides us many peace-giving moments, and although it manages to retain a certain amount of poignant inner pain, it also provides relief.
If life is such a burden, as Trower knows, then we seek spiritual succour through the power and influence of blues.
This show was a magnificent achievement. The maestro has kept his touch. The songs sparkled. And audience loyalty was rewarded.
Here was a master-class in how to play expressive blue. And how to play with feeling.