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Twice Removed From Yesterday
Roads To Freedom
What's Your Name
The Past Untied
Day Of The Eagle
Bridge Of Sighs
20th Century Blues
Victims Of The Fury
Too Rolling Stoned
Go My Way
Another Time, Another Place
Little Bit Of Sympathy
(10/7/06) I entered the cozy Rex Theatre about 15 minutes before the scheduled start time, and took a seat in the left block, on the aisle, about halfway back, probably close to where I sat the last time I was there, for the Bonamassa show. The place was already crowded, and we were informed that it was a sold out show. Sean, the DJ from WDVE who's on in the afternoons and does the two deep cuts at 4 and 5 o'clock, was at the show, and he came up on stage to make some announcements before the opener came on. Boy, wouldn't it be cool to have that job? Not only do you get to be a DJ and play rock songs on the radio for a living, but you also get perks like announcing awesome bands that play in your city (and who knows what other perks there are).
Anyhow, after mentioning how the show was sold out, and how Trower had played at various venues in Pittsburgh for the last 40 years, and similar things, Sean introduced the opener, a Pittsburgh native musician by the name of Norman Nardini, who also had allegedly been playing music in Pittsburgh since the 60's. He said he typically plays with a band, but tonight it was just him with an acoustic guitar (plugged in). He was your typical Pittsburgher. It was really half stand-up comedy and half music. The songs were less than interesting. He remarked at the fact that the Robin Trower concert was obviously a 'man's show', although there were a few women in the crowd. He asked the crowd about things like who saw Robin Trower with Procol Harum when they played Pittsburgh in the 60's, and he wanted to check to make sure the people that raised their hands were actually old enough to have been there. I got the feeling I must have been one of the youngest people in the audience. I actually recall seeing a young kid at the end of the show, although it was a 21 and over show, so I'm not sure about that. But that kid was the only person I saw that looked to be younger than I was. Hell, I'm only just barely old enough to have gone to the show. The guy sitting next to me actually asked me, in a friendly way, what I was doing at a Robin Trower concert. He asked if I won a ticket or something, but I assured him that I was a huge Trower fan, which is entirely the truth.
Speaking of the guy sitting next to me, he came in at some point during the opening act, and sat down next to me, actually with the rest of his buddies who happened to be taking up the rest of the row I was sitting in. He was obviously 'prepped' (chemically) for the show, and he was quite a talker, which was kind of annoying at first, but it turns out he had a lot of interesting things to say. He was pretty vocal about his disinterest in the opener, which is a sentiment I could agree with.
The entire theatre was obviously very excited when Trower finally came on, sometime around 9 (they played a heavy hour and a half or so). They opened with the title track from Robin Trower's solo debut album from 1973, Twice Removed From Yesterday. I didn't recognize what song it was right away, but by the time the chorus came around I knew what it was. It's a great song, and honestly not one I was expecting to hear that night. I enjoyed it, but the second song they played totally floored me. I was definitely not expecting to hear Hannah (from the same album), but it's one of my favorite Trower songs and I went crazy for it. It was so good. Trower had Davey Pattison on vocals, and while he's not James Dewar, he's a fitting replacement. It was outstanding hearing that song live. I want to be in a band that plays that song someday...
Trower was playing his signature strat, and I don't know if it was actually red or just a brownish shade, but it sparkled like cherry under the stage lights. Seriously, Robin Trower played fantastically, definitely as well as he's ever been (at least judging from recordings from the 70's). His tone is dynamite, totally out of this world, so rich and so ethereal. Just hearing Robin Trower's guitar is like imbibing some incomprehensible alien chemical that shoots you straight at the stars. And being able to watch him play live right in front of you, especially from a seat so close that you can watch his fingers and his movements and his sympathetic facial expressions as he travels the beautiful and eccentric landscape of his songs...it's sublime.
After Hannah, they played Roads To Freedom, a song I recognized from the 1980 album Victims Of The Fury, an album that I recently picked up and consider as good as the first few. Then came What's Your Name, a song from a more recent album. I'm unfortunately not familiar with Trower's recent music, so those songs I didn't recognize and can't say a whole lot about, but I will tell you that even the songs I didn't know sounded fantastic. Robin Trower is the god of space metal blues.
After What's Your Name, Trower said he'd give Davey a break, and they played what I recall was an instrumental song that sounded great. Then Davey came back on stage for the next song. During some of the longer jam parts of the songs Davey would also leave the stage, or at least hang out on the side of the stage. In addition to Robin Trower and Davey Pattison, there was Dave Bronze on bass and Pete Thompson on drums (though I swear it sounded like Pete Townshend when Trower introduced him!). They kept a solid foundation, even though the focus was clearly on the guitar, and to a lesser extent, the vocals (at least for me, anyway).
After the instrumental, they did the classic Day Of The Eagle from the 1974 Bridge Of Sighs album (Trower's most popular album), and it sounded fantastic. It's a great song to begin with. Then, just like on the album, Day Of The Eagle flowed into Bridge Of Sighs, the title track. It sounded spectacular, and Robin jammed for what must have been at least 15 minutes. It just kept going and going and going, and it sounded incredible! What a great song. I just learned to play that song the other night, and I was trying to pay attention to what Trower was playing, maybe pick up some hints for when I try to play it, but man, I could never keep up with Trower, he's fantastic. The tone, and the wicked sustain, and distortion, it just sounds so delicious.
After Bridge Of Sighs finally (unfortunately) ended, they played another song I wasn't familiar with, and then they did the title track from Victims Of The Fury, which is another great song, and another one I wasn't expecting to hear. Then came the magnificent Too Rolling Stoned. That song is like simultaneously one of the greatest rock songs *and* one of the greatest blues songs of all time. It featured another extended jam. Then there were two more songs I didn't recognize and then the finale. Little Bit Of Sympathy (from Bridge Of Sighs) is Trower's signature closing song. It's a great song, and it sounded great, and man it was awesome to hear him end the show the same way he does on all the live albums, at the end of that song. Awesome.
After a short interlude, the band came back on stage for the encore, and kicked into Lady Love (also from Bridge Of Sighs). I was rather surprised and honestly disappointed that they didn't play Daydream during the main set, and I was a little doubtful that they would put it in an encore, but thankfully, that's exactly what they did. They ended the night with Daydream, and it wasn't shortened or anything just because it was in the encore. I cannot say enough about the song Daydream, I can only try to keep myself from rambling on longer than my vocabulary holds out. It's a song from Trower's first album, Twice Removed From Yesterday, and is a very beautiful piece of music. I'm honest to god getting a bit worked up right now thinking about it. The lyrics start off as such, "we were laughing in a daydream, with the world beneath our feet." An incredible song. In fact, I vote it higher than Stairway To Heaven for greatest and most beautiful rock song ever composed. And the guitar solo...just let me say this: the guitar solo in Daydream is thirteen planes of heaven higher than the guitar solo in Stairway To Heaven. My god. If you want the definitive live version (and the live versions are better than the studio version), check out the live album titled Live, from 1976. I've heard two other live versions in addition to seeing one in concert, and the wicked sustain that really marks the highlight of the song is best in the version from that live album. The other versions pale in comparison in that respect, but shine equally bright in all other respects. And the version I saw at the concert - remarkable. It's just such a beautiful and moving song. Trower's vibrato was probably even better than the sustain that night. But in every respect, it was outstanding. What a groovy concert experience...
If anything, I think this concert may have solidified Robin Trower's place as my favorite guitarist, if it's really possible for me to pick one that stands above all my other favorites. I won't go that far, I'll just say that Robin Trower is truly one of a kind, and one of the top gods of heavy blues rock.
In retrospect, I consider myself very lucky for getting to see Trower in concert, and I'm glad I heard the classics like Bridge Of Sighs, Too Rolling Stoned, Daydream, and others. I consider myself particularly lucky to have heard Hannah, though. It was expected to hear lots of songs from the album Bridge Of Sighs, but I was happy to hear a healthy three tunes from Twice Removed From Yesterday, which is probably tied for me as my favorite Robin Trower album. I'm a little disappointed that I didn't hear anything from the other album that's tied for my favorite, For Earth Below. But I'm not sad, because of everything I got to hear. In fact, as truly great as a lot of Robin Trower's songs are (it really is a tragedy that his music isn't more well-known and widely respected), I fully believe that I would have been satisfied if I didn't hear any songs I recognized, because no matter what Trower plays, he plays it fantastically, with that unmistakable style.
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