Robert Cray Band – Corn exchange, Cambridge – 22nd October 2015

Tonight’s gig kicked off with a set from Shawn Jones, a Californian musician who has worked with the likes of Waylon Jennings.  It’s a very simple setup – just him playing guitar and singing.  It maybe a simple setup but it works well – there’s nothing to distract from what he plays.  I often find solo performers to be slightly dull but that’s definitely not the case with Shawn Jones who puts in a great performance that goes down very well with the crowd and the amount of people visiting the merch stand after his set showed that the applause was genuine.  His music has some rock, some blues, some Roots, but however you describe it, it sounds great.  An excellent start to the night.

Next up was Robert Cray.  Alongside him are Richard Cousins on bass, Dover Weinberg on Hammond organ and keyboards and Les Falconer on drums.  It’s clear as you watch them that they are good friends as rather than just people who perform together as they laugh and joke with each other – particularly Robert Cray and Richard Cousins.

The music tonight is simply superb.  Robert Cray’s guitar playing is great – strong and loud when needed and at other times very soft and subtle leaving the audience hanging on every note.  Add in the fantastic and distinctive Hammond Organ sound which really adds a lot of richness to the songs (“Hip tight onions” in particular) and the solid rhythm section of drums and bass and you’ve got a great combination.  For me though nothing beats Robert Cray’s voice which sounds fantastic.

Something that seems to be a standard part of a Robert Cray Band set comes with “Right next door” which ends with the band gradually fading out, gradually decreasing the volume of the instruments and Robert Cray lowering his guitar volume and the vocals and also moving slightly further from the microphone (rather than just decreasing the volume at the sound desk), and at one point he proves the microphone is fully on by clapping it and the resulting loud pop would have woken any dozing audience members.  That fade out of the vocals is simple but highly effective.

Whereas some bands keep the same set list throughout a tour and plan when the talks to the audience will happen, Robert Cray Band is more spontaneous – the songs played and the order they are played in varies each night, and there are plenty of joking comments – this is a band that seems to enjoy the show as much as the audience does.

As with previous occasions where I’ve seen Robert Cray, the time just flew past, and the end of the night seemed to come far too soon despite them playing a good hour and a half.  Robert Cray is a performer that is well worth going to see if you get the chance.

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About Ant May

I spend half my life at gigs or festivals and the other half writing the reviews and editing photos, and somehow find time for a full time job too. Who needs sleep - I've got coffee.
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