photo by Kevin Statham
By Steve Newton
I’ve seen a lot of electric guitar-based concerts in the last 30 years or so. Heck, one of the main reasons I became a music journalist back in ’82 was to see a lot of electric guitar-based concerts. (That, and to get free albums.)
But I honestly can’t recall seeing one in which the guitar itself sounded as bloody awesome as it did last night (February 21) at Robert Cray’s Hard Rock Casino Vancouver show. I don’t know if it was Cray’s use of Matchless amps, the way they were miked, the acoustics, the sound system, the soundman–or a wicked combination of them all–but god almighty did his Stratocasters sound superb.
Of course, it didn’t hurt that the guy handling that sweet array of Strats is one of the tastiest blues players around. The type who’s quirky, imaginative solos seem to run on 99% feel.
Backed by a stellar band that included keyboardist Dover Weinberg, drummer Les Falconer, and longtime bassist and childhood friend Richard “No Shoes” Cousins, Cray pulled off a wonderful set that included songs from as far back as 1983 (“Phone Booth”, the Eric Clapton-covered “Bad Influence”) and as recent as last year’s In My Soul album.
One of the top tracks from Cray’s latest disc is the instrumental “Hip Tight Onions”, which pays homage to the organ-driven sound of Booker T and the MGs. (The title is a three-pronged nod to the MGs songs “Hip Hug Her”, “Time is Tight”, and “Green Onions”.) The Robert Cray Band saved that gem for the encore.
Strangely enough, Cray did not pull out his biggest hit, “Smoking Gun”, from the double-platinum Strong Persuader album of ’86. Clearly, he doesn’t measure himself by hit singles.
And when your sound is that stunningly strong, the setlist is secondary anyway.