Robin Trower @ The Assembly, Leamington Spa – 15 October 2016

Playing with Procol Harum, Robin Trower went on to become a pretty big thing in his own right, the history of which spans more than four decades. So, on a night such as this, those in the know are out to be treated to one of Britain’s most celebrated guitar innovators.

When you go to see a guy 71 years of age who “likes to play the guitar for 2 or 3 hours a day” and has done so for most of his life, you can expect a certain level of competence. Add to this a man referred to as the “white Hendrix” whose early fanbase included the Rolling Stones, and who is now heralded as one of the most influential guitar players of all time – that expectation is set to become nothing short of a remarkable experience.

Trower’s possession of raw power and pure spirit are immediately evident with the eight minute epic opener ‘Too Rolling Stoned’ from his 1974 breakthrough solo album ‘Bridge of Sighs’. All of those gathered at the Leamington Assembly are spellbound with the articulate tone and audacious style which permeates the air. Trower going to work on his signature Stratocaster, playing like the kid in his heyday, with breathtaking exuberance.

With a 21 studio solo album catalogue, the carefully selected set combines the old with the new. From the latest album ‘Where You Are Going To’ comes the title track and the emotionally charged ‘I’m Holding On To You’, dedicated to the memory of his late wife. There’s a blend of blues, soul, funk, R&B and jazz, all delivered with the fire and passion of a true guitar legend. Classics such as ‘Day of the Eagle’ and ‘Bridge of Sighs’ coax sounds from that Strat to stir you up inside – not with clichés, not with imitations, but with the unique brand of a masterful artist.

Continuing to adopt the power-trio format with bassist Richard Watts – who also takes on the majority of vocals – and Christopher Taggart on drums, the Trower band are as tight as they come. Full respect has to be showered upon these superb younger musicians, but I suspect even they forgive a Trower audience for paying attention mostly to the man himself. While getting on with the job in hand for most of the show, their gaffer makes sure they are both recognised and applauded with appropriate introductions.

Taking us along on one musical masterpiece after another, the slow, somber blues number ‘Daydream’ is a particular highlight. Although whilst I understand and appreciate audience members emotional need to “whoop” with delight, the guy feeling it necessary to bark out the name of other great guitarists throughout this number, could do with remembering he’s not here alone, even if in his own little world.

During the encore of ‘Rise Up Like the Sun’ and ‘For Earth Below’ – as for the last 90 minutes – it’s clear that Robin Trower’s virtuoso ability is one which others can only dream of. Showing no signs of slowing down, his incredible talent and inspirational style should be witnessed by any guitar player. Whether you’re a budding young guitarist, or an old and experienced one – you should be making it a goal to see Robin Trower in the live environment at your earliest opportunity.

Review & Photography: Steve Johnston

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