Robin Trower Islington Assembly Hall London
72 year old blues rock guitarist Robin Trower played a one off UK gig in his home city of London amidst the snowmageddon that’s currently sweeping the country. The current Siberian weather that this country is currently facing did not deter the ‘Trower Power’ faithful and just shy of 900 people packed themselves into the Grade II listed Islington Assembly Hall, built in 1929 in North East London and currently run by Islington Council for this sell out show.
Support for the evening came from the Sari Schorr Trio featuring ‘The First Lady of the Blues’, Brooklyn NY based blues rock vocalist Sari Schorr, supremely talented blues guitarist Ash Wilson and ex King King keyboard and Hammond Organ player Bob Fridzema.
The Sari Schorr trio played a stripped down set with an almost ‘unplugged’ feel to proceedings. The usual energy and emotion of their set was still ever present despite this minimalist approach. In some respects, this approach heightened the emotion and made the 45 minute opening set even more special. The feel, the touch and the tone that Ash gets from his guitar is simply beautiful. There was no room for error with this style of playing as all eyes and ears were transfixed on this young British talent. Any error would have been ever more noticeable in the almost eerie silence of the hall. Ash Wilson, to my mind, is one of the world’s greatest guitar talents and rising stars and he did not disappoint. Note perfect, clear and concise guitar playing coupled with Sari’s powerful Tina Turner come Janis Joplin esque vocals and stage presence with John Lord style Hammond from Bob Fridzema makes a this trio of musicians rather special indeed.
There were plenty of Sari Schorr virgins, now converts, in the room who were simply mesmerized by the talent before them. Now, as I said to an uninitiated Sari fan, imagine those three with the rest of the ‘engine room’ – bass and drums – and with Ash’s guitar cranked up you have got one very special outfit. A new album from Sari Schorr and The Engine Room is in the making and if the 2016 debut release ‘A Force of Nature’s is anything to go by, the music world will be a much better place when it’s unleashed upon us.
Robin Trower, a 72 year old veteran of the music scene started out with Procal Harum in 1967 and went on to forge his own successful solo career spanning over 4 decades. Robin shows no signs of slowing down and released his 22nd, and arguably his best solo studio album since his 40s, in early May 2017.
I have seen Robin live a few times before so knew what to expect. On his latest release ‘Time and Emotion’ Robin has taken on vocal responsibilities himself and I was wandering if he’d take the vocal reigns on this occasion, he did not. Robin only sang on a handful of numbers leaving the vocal duties to his bassist and even then they were few and far between. Robin Trower is a blues guitarist and it’s understandable and quite right this his guitar took centre stage.
Robin Trower is somewhat of a marmite musician. Apart from the die hard Trower fans, people can take him or leave him. There is no doubt that his Mr Trower is one of the true greats and legends of the guitar but the listener is often left with the feeling that once you’ve heard one of his songs, you have heard them all. This was the feeling in London and a few people left early uttering the words ‘I prefer Jeff Beck’. This trend continued throughout the evening and it wasn’t until halfway through the set that things got going with the upbeat and more rocky ‘Day of the Eagle’ leading seamlessly into ‘Bridge of Sighs’ which is the title track of Trower’s second release and breakthrough album in 1974. I was left feeling sorry for the bassist and drummer at times as playing the same beats for an hour and a half with no chance of expressing myself is not really my idea of fun. However, the evening was billed as ‘Robin Trower’, not ‘Robin Trower and band’, ‘The Robin Trower Trio’ or ‘Robin Trower and guests’ so the focus was quite rightly on Mr Trower and his guitar.
For Robin Trower fans, the man did not disappoint. The sound was crystal clear and his trademark phsycadelic sound was ever present. Robin had emotion all over his face and was loving being onstage in his home city of London. Guitar wizardry was prominent throughout with legato runs, hybrid picking, tremolo picking, sweep picking and rakes with the odd pinched harmonic thrown in with effective and not overdone use of his Fulltone pedals routed through two linked up Marshall amps.
For a man of 72, Robin still has the ‘Trower Power’. Who knows what’s next for the Carrock born blues master but one thing if for sure, fans of Trower going to catch a live show, whenever and wherever that may be, will not be disappointed. You will be get the Robin Trower experience in all its proficient glory, I just wish he’d crank it up a notch.