Even though Robin Trower is a regular feature on my playlist at home this will be the first time I’ll have seen him live. It’s also the first time I’ll have seen Joanne Shaw Taylor too, and remarkably, considering that I’ve been going to gigs for more years than I care to admit, it’ll also be the first time for me at a gig in “The Arches”.
With its small entrance on Argyle Street I was surprised by how sprawling and spacious the venue is inside. It contains a number of bars and what seems like a labyrinth of passageways and rooms. The long bare stone walled hall which plays host to the gig tonight has an old warehouse type feel to it, and it is unsurprisingly in the shape of an arch (I guess the clue is in the name). I’m not sure why more bands don’t play here, it’s such a nice venue with great acoustics.
Many support bands suffer by having a small turnout as fans of the main band are either at the bar, or only come along later for the head-liners. It’s definitely not the case tonight though as the venue is packed with a crowd obviously keen to see Joanne Shaw Taylor, and when she walks onto the stage there is a roar of appreciation from this Glasgow audience, so much so that she comments on the “rowdiness” of the crowd before she has even played a note.
Strapping on her Butterscotch Blonde Telecaster the band launch into “Mud, Honey” from her latest album The Dirty Truth. A friendly drunken bloke next to me tells me how much he loves her, while he uses me as a leaning post, and punches the air in time to the music. “She’s f*****g brilliant” he tells me; yes she is. She sings and plays with an incredible amount of feeling. I’m not sure what her set-up is but it looks like she’s playing through two amps tonight. She has a small Fender combo and a small Marshall combo amp. By the sounds of it she’s using the Fender amp for the quieter sections then kicks on the Marshall for the heavier lead parts, but I could be wrong. Whatever she’s doing, it works, her guitar sounds great.
After the slightly more laid back and funky “Just Another Word” Joanne changes guitars, to a Lemon Drop Les Paul , and ups the intensity with probably the highlight of the set for me “Watch ’em Burn”. The quiet sections and solos on her songs are nice but for me she really shines when she kicks on the overdrive and really goes for it.
I’m not sure how long she played, but after seven songs, it all seemed to end too quickly. I could have listened to her all night. She puts on a great performance and goes down well with this crowd, who I have a sneaky suspicion, are already familiar with her songs. It’d be great to see a full headlining set from her sometime.
There’s something magical about seeing someone live for the first time that you’ve only ever seen in interviews, live footage etc…. After the short intro music Robin walks onto the stage and it’s obvious, from the crowds reaction, that the main event has arrived. After so many years playing live you might think that he would take the applause, and cheers, in his stride but he looks genuinely happy at the reception he’s received. He smiles happily at the Glasgow audience, takes a white Fender Stratocaster that’s handed to him by one of the crew, mouthed the words “Thank you” and starts to play “Somebody Calling” from 1977’s In City Dreams. An interesting opener as I would have expected a track off the new album but this is a great first song.
I wondered if his guitar tone would sound as phenomenal live as it does on record; I wasn’t disappointed. He has two Marshall half stacks, these are not for show they are both on, and it’s loud. Perhaps too loud for some? A girl standing next to me at the barrier was wearing what looked like industrial strength ear protection. As I look around me all eyes are on Robin it’s just mesmerising to watch him play. Christopher Taggart on drums and Richard Watts on bass and vocal duties are in great form tonight, incredibly talented musicians, but for the fans the main focus is always going to be on Mr Trower and his incredible charisma.
Robin is seventy this year but my first impression of him was just how agile he still is as he moves around the stage. I can’t imagine that he could have been any better when he was younger. Looking at his face you can see that he feels every note that he plays and is a joy to watch and listen to.
After the short “Rise up like the Sun” we finally get to hear Robin sing for the first time on “See My Life”. Vocal duties are shared by himself and Watts, both of which are spot on. I love the lead fills Robin adds between the vocals on this track. His wah wah infused solos are inspired.
Robin has a huge catalogue of material to draw from and it must be difficult to choose which tracks to play and which to leave out of a set. Before the encore he plays through a selection of classic tracks, “Day of the Eagle” being a favourite for me, and also plays three songs from the new album: “Something’s About to Change”, “Up and gone”, and “Good Morning Midnight” which are all well received.
They say time flies when you’re enjoying yourself and again, even after fourteen songs, when it’s time for the encore it just seems too soon. After a short break the band come back and perform two last tracks. Of course “Too Rolling Stoned” had to be played and the final track “For Earth Below” finished off a stunning gig.
All in all a great night. Having both Robin Trower and Joanne Shaw Taylor on the same bill is an unbeatable line-up. The UK tour is still in its early stages so even if you only have a passing familiarity with the blues you should go out and buy a ticket for this before it sells out; you won’t regret it and you’ll kick yourself if you miss it.
Reviewed by Martin Patterson
- Somebody Calling
- Rise Up Like the Sun
- See My Life
- Lady Love
- Something’s About to Change
- Day of the Eagle
- Bridge of Sighs
- Up and gone
- Confessin’ Midnight
- Good morning midnight
- The Turning
- Not Inside – Outside
- Little Bit of Sympathy
- Too Rolling Stoned
- For Earth Below
Robin Trower: [robintrower]
Joanne Shaw Taylor: [joanneshawtaylor]