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.
- 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.