April 22, 2016 Robin Trower Simply Fantastic At The Paramount Huntington, NY 4-16-16
After leaving the very successful English Progressive Rock outfit Procol Harum following the release of 1971’s Broken Barricades album, Guitarist Robin Trower embarked on a solo career that would yield four consecutive gold records between 1974 and 1977. Debuting solo in 1973 with Twice Removed from Yesterday, his 1974 effort entitled Bridge of Sighs is considered his masterpiece, peaking at number seven on the Billboard charts. Inspired at an early age by both Rockabilly and R&B, the ’60s would expose Trower to the sounds of heavy Blues Rock and the influences of acts like Cream, Led Zeppelin, and The Jimi Hendrix Experience can be heard in his playing. Now still extremely active writing and recording new music, Trower returns in 2016 with his twenty-fourth solo effort, Where You Are Going To. A record that comes only a year removed from 2015’s Something’s About To Change, Trower proves he still has plenty of creativity left, but most of all, live showmanship. With that said, Trower remains on the road touring in 2016 in support of the new material, and on Saturday, April 16th, visited Huntington, New York to perform at The Paramount. Backed by Chris Taggart on drums and Richard Watts on bass and vocals, Trower brought his fiery brand of Blues Rock out for a night of dizzying soundscapes.
As main support for the evening, New York’s own Phil Varca & The Slam would get the night going. Consisting of Phil Varca (guitar/vocals), Tom Porter (bass), and Russell Stone (drums), the band has been going strong since 1989. Perhaps not widely known on a national scale, the band’s raw guitar-driven Rock has built them a respected name around New York. Performing regularly throughout the years around Long Island, this visit to The Paramount saw Varca and company put on a energetic performance. Melodic and from the heart, their Blues Rock was just the right way to kick off the show.
Following a quick set change, Trower’s show lifted off around 9 PM, starting with “Too Rolling Stoned.” A song that is introduced by an overtly funky bassline, Trower quickly jumped in with an equally funky lead on guitar. Sounding like something out of a classic Blaxploitation film, the song turned into a fine blend of angst-ridden Blues and punchy Rhythm and Blues. A laid back break in the middle let the band catch its collective breath for a mellow ride along classic Blues chords, before an extended, rousing Blues-soaked outro. Then, “See My Life,” from 2012’s Roots and Branches, kept the Funk train moving with a plodding bass line and an obscene amount of wah-wah over a slow groove. Sounding like the best of heavy Blues Rock that dominated the music scene in the late ’60s, Trower made the most of the psychedelic sound with just the right touch of the Blues.
Moving on, “Not Outside-Inside” provided a mellow jaunt with a melodic tune that featured a steady stream of darting solos, making for a unique ride. An extended, slow burn was the theme for the title track of Trower’s most recent release, Where You Are Going To. Classy Blues licks permeated the simple, yet effective bass and drums. “Somebody Calling” continued on the subdued path with a bouncy bass lead from Watts, along with a soulful vocal. Muted, atmospheric guitars were the perfect complement to the complex rhythm.
Thereafter, “Day of the Eagle” was a complete 180 from the two previous tracks played. With a wild, churning, propulsive lead on guitar and growling lyrics, the song delivered a sinister sound, oozing tension as the drums seemed to be racing the sounds of the guitar to a fiery wreck. Tempering the insanity were several well-placed solos that elevated the song from the depths of certain doom. Having everyone eating up the music, keeping the Blues train rolling was the title track from the smash album Bridge of Sighs. An eerie, menacing intro laid the foundation for a winding, meandering Rock number dripping with atmosphere. Then, multi-textural, droning guitars made up the somber vibe, and great restraint was shown throughout as Trower eschews flashy fret work for classy, moody, languid playing.
After the somber “Bridge of Sighs,” it was back to upbeat Rock-n-Roll with heavy Blues accents on “The Turning,” which had a wild opening salvo featuring breakneck guitars and propulsive drumming. At the halfway point, the song took a turn into a slow Blues grind with delicate guitars, wailing and moaning in a melancholy dirge-like outro. Keeping the audience’s interest, “I’m Holding On To You” provided a stirring tribute to the Chicago Blues sound. A timeless Blues riff was the bedrock over which perfectly placed, darting solos dominated the sound, echoing the greats such as Howlin’ Wolf and Buddy Guy. It was a moment no one could help but envision a dank, smoky gin mill with dim lighting and cheap gin.
Still having plenty more to offer up, “Confessing Midnight” dialed in the upbeat, Heavy-Psych sound of 1968 with a gritty, effects-laden riff peppered with angry vocals and powerful drumming. The numerous solos throughout had an intensity that, despite originally being released in 1974, seemed the perfect soundtrack for the rampant civil unrest in the late ’60s. It was a time capsule within a time capsule. Unlike many other songs during the show, this one was high on the threat meter from start to finish.
Still showing no signs of fatigue, Trower went into “Daydream,” and clocking in at nearly fifteen minutes, it was the highlight of the show. Keeping a cool for the entire duration, it was a quarter hour of enthralling, somber playing, sounding like the Grateful Dead and Pink Floyd got lost on a spaceship in freefall. Countless solos throughout were each their own sublime, delicate breaks in the quiet groove. Melodic and technically proficient, each one took on a life of its own and could have been the basis for an entirely separate track. Leaving the crowd mesmerized, the song spilled right into set closer “Little Bit of Sympathy,” a lively number with escalating guitar leads and blistering solos. The urgency in the music got the crowd going, and as the song ended and the band left the stage, the audience screamed for more.
After a brief exit, Trower and company returned to the stage for a two song encore. First was “Rise Up Like the Sun,” a dirty, Sleaze-Rock number with a twinge of Blues. The Hard Rock, teetering on Heavy Metal lead was supported with rapid-fire drumming and pounding bass. For the second half of the track, Trower did what he does best and delivered a slew of tasty Blues solos. Show closer “For Earth Below” was a dreamy, hazy number riddled with experimental, soothing sounds on guitar. From beginning to end, the song never strayed from the effervescent sound of psychedelia. It was the perfect finale as if Trower was tucking the crowd into bed after a long night of a Blues roller coaster in which he touched on dozens of sounds and styles.
All in all, a magnificent performance, Trower showed why he is still one the best guitarists to witness live. A night with Robin Trower is a night steeped in Blues history. Touching on all the sounds of the past, and delivering a new, fresh sound along the way makes for a thrilling ride. Robin Trower’s tour continues through North America into May so do not miss out on a chance to see a living legend.