Robert Cray made a welcome return to Belfast after too long an absence and wow’ed a packed main marquee at the Cathedral Arts Festival.
- Sexagenarians can rock as hard as anyone. Three of the four members of the band are in and around 60 years old – so what? This is a superb blues quartet delivering as tight and as cool as sound as you’ll hear.
- Bass players with dreadlocks and bare feet are pretty cool. Richard Cousins, wielding a selection of four and five string basses, is surely the hip-est bass player around, as he jumps around dreadlocks flying. He seemed to appreciate the shag carpet laid on for him in Belfast. And – the crack between him and Robert during the evening was great fun.
Bass Player Richard Cousins
- Robert Cray is one of the best male singers you’ll ever hear. His singing is molasses sweet and boy, can he hit those high notes. With a career going back to the 70s, five Grammy awards and numerous nominations, he’s shared stages with luminaries like Albert Collins, Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. But who can both sing and play quite like Robert?
- The tone he gets from his Strat and Matchless amps is so glassy you could slip on it. He is one seriously good guitarist, mixing jazzy chords and lines with the blues in a quite distinctive style. You hear a few notes and you know you’re listening to Robert Cray. And the man can fret across six -six! – frets.
- You don’t have to make a mushy face when you launch into a guitar solo, but, clearly, it helps.
- And finally – twenty odds years between visits to Belfast is far too long. The standing ovations Robert Cray got at the end of the evening hopefully will persuade him to come back soon.
Post script: The supporting act, the Lee Hedley Band was terrific. They treated a hugely appreciative audience to a set of well-known Chicago blues. Tight rhythm section, cool lead guitar from the excellent Frank Carberry and the charismatic Lee Hedley in front, with his tasteful blues harp and well phrased singing.
Tedeschi Trucks Band at the Tempdrom, Berlin
Photo generously provided by Holger Ott
- A big band of 12 world class musicians is a truly wonderful thing.
- The E Street Band isn’t the only one with a cool, long curly haired saxophonist. Kebbi Williams sprang into action straightaway on the first song, Don’t Know What it Means and just got better as the evening went on.
- The drum solo is not a thing of the past. Particularly when you’ve got TWO top notch drummers. Tyler Greenwell and J. J. Johnson drove the music forward, with an uncanny, in-sync timing.
- The 8-12 minute song in a live setting is what concerts are made for. Seriously – so good were the song arrangements and so outstanding the musicianship, you were disappointed when each song came to a conclusion.
- Derek Trucks is a peerless electric slide guitarist. Make that guitarist, full stop. Playing in open E tuning mostly, he makes that Gibson SG sing. And he doesn’t use a pick. And, given half a chance, he’ll throw in a few Indian-sounding licks.
- Susan Tedeschi is an excellent guitarist but an INCREDIBLE singer. Blues, soul, Gospel, Americana – doesn’t matter, she’ll nail it. Make no mistake, this band is awesome – but Susan Tedeschi is the glue that holds it together, the voice that makes it all work.
- If you have vocalists in the band like Mike Mattison, Mark Rivers and Alecia Chakour, you can afford to do a spiritual (Anyhow My Lord) right bang in the middle of the concert.
One final thing – from what I can gather, it’s a rather German thing to do – my camera was taken from me as I entered the Tempdrom. This I consider mean and just pointless. Never happened to me before in the UK, Ireland or US, for big name or less well known artists. Grrrr.
Here’s the setlist if you’re interested:
Set 1 (70 min)
- Don’t Know What It Means
- Keep On Growing (Derek and the Dominos cover)
- Bird on the Wire (Leonard Cohen cover)
- Laugh About It
- Right on Time
- Leaving Trunk (Sleepy John Estes cover)
- Volunteered Slavery (Rahsaan Roland Kirk cover)
- Ali (Miles Davis cover) (with Jeff Taylor)
- Let Me Get By
Set 2 (85 min)
- Anyhow My Lord (Spiritual) / Anyhow
- Comin’ Home (Delaney & Bonnie cover)
- Midnight in Harlem
- Bound for Glory
- Angel From Montgomery (John Prine cover)
- Sugaree (Jerry Garcia cover)
- How Blue Can You Get (B.B. King cover)
- I Want More
- Soul Sacrifice (Santana cover)
- Let’s Go Get Stoned (The Coasters cover)