LIVE: Robin Trower @ The Egg, 10/21/14
Review and photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
Robin Trower isn’t the “British Jimi Hendrix.” He’s his own man. He derived his distinctive guitar sound on his own. Yes, there were early influences; but who alone without influence has created something, anything, on their very own? Very few, if any.
In the jazz world the credit always goes to Charlie Parker for creating the “modern jazz sound.” However, not many know that Sonny Stitt was mining the same avenues of jazz progressions, chords and music as “Bird” did before the sound became mainstream. When the public caught on – slowly at first – to the be-bop message of Parker and his cohorts, Stitt was left holding the bag and pointing to several recordings of his that had evolved that sound during the same time, if not earlier, then Charlie Parker did. Stitt is now practically forgotten, but Parker’s inventive legacy lives on.
The same goes for Robin Trower…
Dig back in Trower’s career, and you’ll hear things in the Procol Harum recordings that had evolved at the same time that Hendrix was experimenting on his own with the Isley Brothers or King Curtis before going to England to form his own “Experience” ensemble and recording his debut album in 1967, Are You Experienced. (And let’s not forget that the late guitar-wizard Roy Buchanan was creating distortion and grunge with his guitar sound by cutting up his amp’s speakers with a razor blade as early as 1957.) It’s ironic that Procol Harum was formed in 1964 as a studio band with Robin Trower on guitar, three years before Hendrix came to play and record in England. But it’s a fact that Procol Harum’s live debut was opening for Hendrix after their hit “A Whiter Shade of Pale” shot up the British and American charts.
But back to Robin Trower, the electric guitarist and living legend. At The Egg on his 40th Anniversary Tour of his classic album Bridge of Sighs, Trower played with his soul exposed in its nakedness through the notes crying or shouting by way of his guitar. With each emotional note he pulled the hundreds of listeners in attendance deeper into his musical vortex. It didn’t matter which song, “Day Of The Eagle,” “Too Rolling Stoned” or even the tour’s namesake, “Bridge of Sighs,” Trower was doing way more than just going through the motions for songs he’s played a million times through the years. Like a jazz artist, he was improvising on his own material. Those who saw him many times before would agree that the solos were different this time out than when he was here three years ago or before at other venues.
Trower is an able improviser within his own songs’ context. His solos from performance to performance on any given tour don’t sound exactly alike. There are moments where he has to sound “like the record” within the structure of the song, but even at age 69, he still delivers sheer magic with his tone control and improvisations. It’s never been about speed with him, it’s always been about tone and throwing out emotion through his ax.
Ted Etoll of Step Up Presents, the promoter who brought Robin Trower to The Egg, put it best, “Like with B.B. King, you can hear three notes and know who it is. It’s the same with Robin Trower! Nobody else sounds like him. He’s a living legend!”
LIVE: Robin Trower @ The Egg, 6/8/11