Gig Review: Robert Cray / Connor Selby – Queens Hall, Edinburgh (12th June 2023)

Connor Selby (c) Gary Cooper

Well, here we are again at the fabulous Queens Hall in Edinburgh for what should be a great night of blues from the legend that is Robert Cray. But first we have Connor Selby, Young Artist of the Year in the UK Blues Awards 2020, 2021 & 2022. I’ve not listened to Connor before so this should be good as he strolls onto the stage by himself guitar in hand, plugs in and sets off with “Falling in Love Again” from his self-titled new album. It’s a nice smooth blues tune stripped down from his full-on album version. He has a great voice that you would think was American if you did not know he is British. A nice start to the night.

We get a few more from the new album including “I Can’t Let You go”, the soulful “The Man I Ought to be” which was more powerful solo, and “The Deep End”. The song of the set for me though was the last one, “Emily”, which has a great guitar groove both on the full electric outing on the album but also acoustic tonight it came across so well.

I really enjoyed his stripped down show which was a nice light blues introduction to him for yours truly. I definitely would love to catch the full band live as the album is just tremendous.

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Up now, the main man himself, the one and only Robert Cray. I’ve been a fan of his since I first heard The Robert Cray Band’s 1986 Strong Persuader album and have seen him several times since. I had bought a ticket when the show was announced but was lucky enough to get to photograph him tonight along with reviewing the show. The band stroll onto the stage, plug in and launch into “Anything You Want” from 2020’s That’s What I Heard. Instantly there’s that familiar guitar tone that only Robert has. I always think of strings so tight they will snap when I hear him play. There is a tight organ background from the maestro that is Dover Weinberg, a drum fill so smooth from the fabulous Les Falconer and those effortless bass lines from Richard Cousins, a stunning start from the band.

Robert Cray (c) Gary Cooper

We are “Two Steps from the End” next as the band take it easy. The sound tonight is nothing short of perfect, the sound engineer earned his money. There is a tightness on show as Les and Robert duel away so effortlessly with the drums and bass keeping them company, and Robert’s voice is in great shape as he walks us along to the end of the song. The band launch into the first of two from 2012’s Nothin But Love with “(Won’t Be) Coming home”, one of my favourites, followed by the more funky “Fix This”. A classic next as we are all “Sitting on Top of the World” with a couple from his This Time album. The slow blues of “I Can’t Fail”, his haunting voice backed up by Dover on keyboards, followed by some cooking humour from Robert as he talks about his “Chicken in the Kitchen” with its upbeat funky feel.

The bass rhythm from Richard takes us into the smooth “I Shiver” before we get all instrumental with some “Hip Tight Onions” with its cool 70s vibe and some funky keyboards from Dover. We head back in time now to 1983 and one of my all time favourite tracks, “Bad Influence” from the album of the same name, just fabulous. The fantastic “You Move Me” up next is simply incredible. Speaking of moving, we head to “Aspen, Colorado” for some relaxing blues from the Robert Cray & Hi Rhythm album. We also have the funked up “You Must believe in Yourself” from the same album. The night is full of favourite songs and “Right Next Door (Because of Me)” is up there as one of the greats. It’s a joy to be sitting up front singing along with a big grin on my face.

I know I’ve said it a lot but tonight has been a truly fantastic amazing night of quality music. The band take a well deserved bow as they leave the stage for the obligatory encore and head back with another killer in the form of “Phone Booth” with its trademark Robert Cray funk-laden guitar, just so good and yes, I was singing along again. The band end the night with the sublime “Time Makes Two” a superb chilled blues number to end a high-octane blues show that went rocky, funky, slow, sad and funny. I cannot explain just how good tonight was, for me that was the best time I have seen Cray and the sound quality will take a lot of beating. The band were outstanding with Dover just sublime on keyboards, Les on drums made everything look effortless as did Richard on bass and Robert was out of this world from singing to playing and his humour with the rest of the band ensured this gig will stay with me for a very long time. Just… wow!

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Pics by Gary Cooper

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