Guitar hero, guitar god, guitar face. These are all valid descriptions of Robin Trower; why this guy isn't in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame yet is beyond me.
He is a rock guitarist who takes the Fender Stratocaster/Marshall combo to soaring heights, creating soundscapes that, with your eyes closed, can transport you into the clouds.
The fact that there were a few, um, clouds wafting into the air at The Catalyst on Saturday, June 20, 2015, I'm sure only enhanced the effect for those in the vicinity.
Trower, is of course, best known for his landmark album "Bridge Of Sighs" from 1974. When that LP came crashing through the windows of record stores 41 years ago, it redefined guitar rock and blues, and since that time Trower has lost none of his unique and wonderfully expressive tone.
Apart from his immense talent as a rock/blues guitarist, it is the combination of thick, .012 and .014 strings at the top end, and of course the boutique Fulltone pedals that he uses, that help him produce those wonderful tones on slow numbers like the beautiful "Daydream" from 1973's "Twice Removed From Yesterday." The song has a hypnotic quality and is truly a blues with attitude.
Trower is often compared to Jimi Hendrix, and although he may have taken some of the Hendrix guitar god mantle, he has his own sound and his own approach to the classic rock/blues trio. New bassist Richard Watts brings a vitality to the singer/bassist role that was made so seminal by the late great James Dewar. I think I prefer Watts' vocals over the previous incumbent, Davey Pattison, though it's tough to replicate Dewar's dulcet tones.
It's always nice to see a stack of Marshall amps behind a guitarist, and Trower squeezed every ounce of juice from them for a packed house. It's wonderful to see so many people still appreciating his music in his 70th year. He gave us a rousing rendition of the riff-heavy "Lady Love" and followed it up with "Day of the Eagle." Trower writes all his own music and lyrics, though he rarely sings. "Living in the day of the eagle, the eagle not the dove" I think speaks volumes. It was written during the waning days of the Vietnam War, as well as the Yom Kippur War. Unfortunately, it is still relevant today.
But everyone was waiting for it, and Trower did not disappoint. "Bridge Of Sighs" is the name of a bridge in Venice over which convicts walked on their way to the cells, so affording them one last view of the city. Trower actually named his song after a horse of that name (maybe running in the 2.30 at Newmarket?) and thought it fitted his lyrics perfectly. I think a lot of people would agree. "Bridge Of Sighs" is one of the most doleful songs in all of rock's canon. "Why so unforgiving? And why so cold? Been a long time crossing the bridge of sighs."
Trower's solo plumbed the depths of despair, and his guitar tone was like melting butter. There are not too many bands around today that can excite you with a 10-minute guitar solo, but Robin Trower is one of them.
I should say a few words about Trower's "guitar face." There is a YouTube video about how to make "guitar faces" when you're playing a solo. Well, Trower could have invented the term. There are times when he seems amazed at the sounds he is getting from his own instrument, and there are others when it looks as if he is having his toenails pulled out. But it actually helps you feel the music and be one with the man and his guitar.
"Confessin' Midnight" from 1975's "For Earth Below" gave us a driving bass line which took us into "Little Bit of Sympathy."
But for an encore he couldn't resist and came back to 1974's "Bridge Of Sighs" album with the rocking "Too Rolling Stoned." This is one of those Trower songs that reminds of sex. All frantic and driving in the first half, then slow and seductive in the second half.
I don't know how much longer Robin Trower is going to go on, but I hope he brings his brand of psychedelic blues/rock to the masses for a few more years yet. It's good to hear the Stratomaster live.
Email Tony Lacy-Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org