Friday, 16 March 2018

Live Review: Robin Trower @ Islington Assembly Hall

Islington Assembly Hall is packed to capacity this evening. After the postponement of last year's date at the same venue, it seems nobody wants to miss Robin Trower this time. He has tended to appear in London quite regularly over recent years, but even so there is an awareness that this esteemed guitarist might not be playing forever. 

Sari Schorr opens proceedings with the relatively stripped-down accompaniment of Ash Wilson on guitar and Bob Fridzema on keys. One thing is clear immediately - this woman has a strident voice. The American chanteuse delivers a performance of unwavering intensity that at times risks overpowering the music itself, but there is no denying her confidence. A version of Bad Company's 'Ready For Love' almost sounds like a threat rather than a bid for seduction, yet thankfully her sidemen keep their cool with tasteful, restrained playing.

Robin Trower takes the stage at nine o'clock sharp with the now-familiar pair of Richard Watts and Chris Taggart on bass and drums respectively. Veteran fans already know what to expect - a set of soulful rock music minus any unnecessary showbiz frills. From the first note to the last, Trower is lost in a world of sound and feeling. This is one musician who simply cannot "phone it in", the space in his music means that he is too exposed to ever be anything other than fully present in the moment. 

Watts handles the bulk of the vocal work, and his understated approach works well on the material from the hallowed James Dewar era. He has no intention of attempting to overshadow his boss or imposing his own ego on songs that have stood up so well over the decades. Behind him Taggart sets about his kit with the unbridled enthusiasm of a young pup.

If there is any criticism to be made here, it would simply be that the set list is remarkably similar to that of Trower's two previous London gigs. When your catalogue is as rich with great music as his, it seems a shame to rely on the same handful of old songs whilst ignoring so many other gems of the past. The newer tunes picked for airing tend to nestle comfortably in the twelve bar form with less in the way of hooks and arrangement than the vintage material. Yet it's not as if the man's recent work is bereft of inspiration - a song like the magnificent 'The Past Untied' would be very much welcome in this context.

After roughly an hour and an half of blues-drenched rock music, with the emphasis firmly on exceptional lead guitar playing and barely a word spoken to the audience, Robin Trower humbly waves goodbye and leaves the stage.

Score: 3.5/5

Writer: George Colwan
Photo: Andy Rawll

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