Robert Gordon saves his Vancouver show after Chris Spedding nearly wrecks it

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ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, JUNE 1992

It’s a good thing Robert Gordon has plenty of charisma—enough, in fact, to make up for Chris Spedding’s total lack of charm. For their show at the Town Pump on Saturday (May 30), Gordon was the picture of suave coolness, while guitarist Spedding—who was co-billed on the show—came off (mostly) as a burnt-out has-been.

It made for an erratic evening.

Spedding, looking like a strung-out candidate for skid row, opened the show in the company of bassist Rob Stoner and drummer Bobby Chouinard, knocking off some throwaway 12-bar blues that were uninspired and way louder than they should have been. The concert bottomed out with Spedding’s grating vocal on “Shakin’ All Over”, and Stoner actually started to yawn before lighting a smoke to keep himself occupied during a slack-assed version of “Guitar Jamboree”, Spedding’s homage to classic rock guitarists that turned into more of a farce.

After four or five time-wasters by Spedding, Gordon finally came out, and the event started to resemble a real rock show. Looking sharp in a leopard-skin jacket, Gordon wrapped his super-smooth vocals around “The Way I Walk”—a tune he recorded back in ’77 with Link Wray and the Jordanaires—and things were looking up.

Free at last from the constraints of trying to sing, Spedding showed some of his crusty old magic, overcoming his physical resemblance to Morton Downey, Jr. by letting loose with some snappy, off-the-cuff boogie licks. Gordon and Spedding have been playing together, on and off, for some 14 years, but there didn’t seem to be any magical, radar-like communication between them. It was more of a workmanlike, let’s-get-this-over-with approach, and old stand-bys such as “Twenty Flight Rock”, “Walk on By”, “Summertime Blues”, and Springsteen’s “Fire” only got the crowd of 550 semi-riled up.

The classy, ever-smiling Gordon—whose looks and style make you think of how Harry Connick, Jr. would be if he’d worshipped Elvis instead of Sinatra—started his encore with Marshall Crenshaw’s “Someday, Someway”, but cut it off quickly, admitting that he’d always hated the tune. He ended the so-so show with a couple of his best-known covers, “Red Hot” and “Black Slacks”, obviously not receiving this scribbler’s telepathic requests for that rollicking summertime gem, “Sea Cruise”.

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