The Robert Cray Band – Barbican Centre, London – 6th May 2014

azadehFirst up tonight was a London singer-songwriter, Azadeh.  She performed solo, playing guitar and singing.  She’s got a lovely voice and the simple performance sounded great and went down well with the audience.  She played both electric and acoustic guitar and for one song ditched the guitar and played piano instead.  Her first single Butterflies, was one of the songs she played, and judging by the queue of people at the merchandise stand in the interval buying copies of the demo she had on sale then it was clear that she made a lot of new fans tonight.  I look forward to hearing her album when she releases it.

Next up though was the main event, Robert Cray.  For me the first song passed in a blur – we were given just one song to take photos of his performance rather than the usual three, so there was no time to concentrate on anything other than taking pictures.  Once that was out of the way I was able to take a seat and enjoy the show.

robertcrayThe band were all at the back of the stage –  alongside Robert Cray are Richard Cousins on bass, Dover Weinberg on Hammond organ and keyboards and Les Falconer on drums.  It’s clear watching them that these are a group of musicians who are good friends as well as good musicians 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 distinctive Hammond Organ sound which really adds a lot of character to some of the songs (“Hip tight onions” for example) and the solid rhythm section of drums and bass and you’ve got a great combination.  For me though the star is Robert Cray’s voice which sounds fantastic.

There are some particularly nice touches – “Right next door” ends with the band gradually fading out, gradually decreasing the volume of the instruments and Robert Cray lowering his 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 with the audience, particularly after he spotted a member of the audience in the front row with a row of empty glasses in front of him at the start of the set.

This was one of those gigs where the time just flew past – although they played for an hour and a half it felt like less than half that time had elapsed.  Unusually for a gig these days there was barely a single phone being held up to take photos during the show – with many gigs you have to watch through a sea of camera phones, but tonight it was only in the encore that I noticed a couple of people taking a quick photo, for the rest of the time people were too busy simply relaxing and enjoying some superb music to worry about taking pictures on their phones – I wish more gigs were like that.

I’d definitely recommend that any Blues fans who haven’t seen Robert Cray live, try and check out one of the remaining dates on his tour – see below for the dates.

Setlist:

?
Poor Johnny
Right next door (because of me)
Sitting on top of the world
Won’t be coming home
Move a mountain
Fine yesterday
I Shiver
I guess I’ll never know
Chicken in the kitchen
What would you say
The forecast (calls for pain)

Encore
Hip tight onions
?

[flickrapi user=”planet mosh” get=”photoset” id=”72157644513926116″ size=”z” count=”100″] Remaining dates on the tour:

Harrogate Royal Hall
Thursday 8th May
Box Office: 01423 502 116
Book Online: www.royalhall.co.uk

Gateshead, The Sage
Friday 9th May
Box Office: 0191 443 4661
Book Online: www.sagegateshead.com

Cambridge Corn Exchange
Saturday 10th May
Box Office: 01223 357 851
Book Online: www.cornex.co.uk

Norwich Theatre Royal
Sunday 11th May
Box Office: 01603 630 000
Book Online: https://secure.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk/Online

Tunbridge Wells, Assembly Hall Theatre
Tuesday 13th May
Box Office: 01892 530 613
Book Online: www.assemblyhalltheatre.co.uk

Cardiff St. David’s Hall
Wednesday 14th May
Box Office: 02920 878 444
Book Online: www.stdavidshallcardiff.co.uk

Manchester Bridgewater Hall
Friday 16th May
Box Office: 0844 907 9000
Book Online: www.bridgewater-hall.co.uk

Edinburgh Queen’s Hall
Saturday 17th May
Box Office: 0131 668 2019
Book Online:www.thequeenshall.net

Guildford G-Live
Sunday 18th May
Box Office: 0844 7701 797
Book Online: www.glive.co.uk/Online

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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