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Thursday 26th March 2015
The Engine Shed in Lincoln, UK
Review & Photography by Mark Holmes
Opening act on Robin Trower's UK tour is Detroit-based, Brummie-born guitarist/vocalist Joanne Shaw Taylor. With Lincoln being the inaugural date of the lengthy trek, you might think teething troubles and a not-quite-yet polished performance could ensue, such is the nature of certain artists (re)adjusting to touring life. Far from it, in fact, as Taylor and her rhythm section of drummer Oliver Perry and bassist Tom Godlington deliver a slickly executed, forty five minute set of blues-flavoured rock that's well received within a half-full Engine Shed (a partition wall truncates the venue's 1600 capacity this evening). Through her gravel-toned, semi-husky voice, Taylor conveys a whole range of emotions within the context of her hard-edged blues. And just as impressive is her nifty fretboard work, with lengthy solo spots an extension of the affective depths already engendered by her voice. Taylor's axiomatically at one with her instrument, using her guitar to emphasise, ride, and create each song's emotional core. It all sounds naturally sourced - evidently from emotional inherence rather than cognitively contrived sentient. In particular, the tone of her Les Paul (and, to a degree, her Telecaster too) is full of warm, sonic lushness which allows her playing to shine even more. Sticksman Perry does a fine job behind his kit, looking like he's in the zone himself, and often exchanges glances with Taylor; their playing gels so well. Bassist Godlington also delivers musically, although he does look a little like a spare wheel and not 'feeling' the performance as much as Taylor or Perry. Still, a mightily impressive forty five minutes of music overall.
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Robin Trower in The Engine Shed, Lincoln, UK, 26th March 2015
Photograph copyright 2015 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
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Recently celebrating his seventieth birthday (although, in the flesh, he does actually look older), Robin Trower wanders out on stage at 9pm to loud applause from a crowd who are evidently excited at the prospect of witnessing the onetime Procol Harum guitarist in live action. Alongside two much younger guys - namely, bassist/vocalist Richard Watts and drummer Chris Taggart - the three men perform a pre-encore set of around an hour, before returning for a couple more numbers. Drawing from a vast back catalogue of solo releases, right from 1973's 'Twice Removed From Yesterday' up to the recently released 'Something's About to Change', it's not the diachronically varied set you might imagine seeing as material's taken from a 40+ years period. Tempo-changes aside, there's little stylistic variance; or, at least, live renditions of each track seem to effectuate any noticeable variations. Thus, in stark contrast to Joanne Shaw Taylor's emotionally striking rock/blues amalgam, Trower's mild-mannered blues approach doesn't bring a climactic finale to the evening as one would've hoped. What he does bring, however, is some nicely laid-back soloing and some serious gurning as he does so. Lacking the energetic flair of Taylor's performance (well, Trower himself is over forty years older), what the trio of musicians lack in onstage energy, they make up for in musical prowess. And, on an emotional level, it's left to Trower to convey any genuine sense of sonic affection; Watts and Taggart come across as hired, professional hands, there to do a job, rather than riding the emotional vibe of the whole thing. For example, over the songs that Watts sings, he has a likeable enough voice, but it just lacks that extra emotional depth to really engage me in a way that Taylor's voice did. Still, it's an enjoyable enough performance overall, and while Trower and co. lack that extra spark that characterised Taylor's explosive stage presence, the majority of the audience seem to adore what they hear; clapping and cheering loudly after each song finishes. Me? Underwhelmed, I'm afraid. Bring back Joanne Shaw Taylor!
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