Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1082

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Robert Cray: Town Hall Birmingham 7/5/17

Rorbert Cray: Birmingham Town Hall 7/5/17
Rorbert Cray: Birmingham Town Hall 7/5/17

“Hi, my name is Johnny Cash. Y’all right?” laughs Robert Cray midway through a scorching set in Birmingham’s posh Town Hall.

Introducing his band Cray said “You gotta have a support crew. You won’t make it in this world otherwise.” The gig had sold out months previously, Cray and his band ripped through a 16 track set of versatile and high-quality blues. Five tracks came from his recent release “Robert Cray and Hi Rhythm” with the rest from his extensive back catalogue.

“Phone Booth” from 1983’s Bad Influence album set the tone for the show, with trademark Cray soul-tinged vocals and two blistering guitar solos. He brought a quality line-up with him from America, long-time bassist Richard Cousins, Terence Clark on drums and Dover Weinberg on piano and Hammond organ.

Next the opening track from the “Hi Rhythm” album “The Same Love That Made Me Laugh” and the song building to a crescendo with Weinberg’s Hammond and Clark’s strong drumming.

Robert Cray can do what BB King said he couldn’t, namely sing and play guitar at the same time. He has a clean, crisp guitar style exemplified with “I’ll Always Remember You” and “Sadder Days” which according to Cray was a “funky little thing”. He was right, Cray brings a funky touch to the blues, not heavy but fun funk, and fun was the theme of the night. Keyboardist Weinberg seemed to have a smile etched onto his face for the whole show.

Robert Cray is the accessible face of the Blues, a consummate professional, accessible and relaxed, with constant witty asides to the audience between numbers and, in the middle of the “Green Onions” style instrumental “Hip Tight” the band suddenly stopped and Cray and Cousins did the mannequin challenge for about a minute with dramatic effect and much whooping from the audience before bringing the song to a climax.

It’s difficult to pick out any highlights from this show as, much like watching a Barcelona football game, the whole 90 minutes was a highlight. There was a purple patch in the middle of the gig with “You Had My Heart” and Cray’s silky smooth vocals, then the shorter “Chicken In The Kitchen” which Cray said always makes him hungry. It certainly made the audience hungry for more when he turned up the volume for a superb and seemingly effortlessly guitar solo.

A double encore of “Forecast Calls For Pain” and “Times Makes Two” brought Cray a standing ovation from an adoring Birmingham crowd. With Robert Cray, you know exactly what you are going to get. He always delivers. The blues doesn’t get any better than this.

PHOTOS: CHAZ BROOKS
Words CHAZ BROOKS

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