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Bebop Spoken There

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As we all know there are no live gigs taking place in the immediate future. However, any links to jazz streaming that are deemed suitable - i.e. with a professional approach - will be considered for posting.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Robert Cray Band + Jon Allen @ The Sage Gateshead. March 11, 2013

(Review by Russell)
The blues greats are all but long gone - Buddy Guy is still around, Taj Mahal, Dr.John, very few others (Magic Slim left us a little over two weeks ago). The next generation (no longer young guns) includes one Robert Cray. British blues aficionados were quick to pick up on Cray when he was little known, his earliest recordings on the Tomato label prized possessions (some collectors sought Japanese imports).
One of Cray’s first gigs on Tyneside attracted those-in-the-know to the Students’ Union of Newcastle University. Decades later the man from Columbus, Georgia, USA walked out onto the stage of Hall One at the Sage Gateshead to a considerably larger following! Cray said it was a pleasure to be back at the Sage Gateshead, turned to his band mates and said: Let’s get to it! 
Cray’s band - the long serving Jim Pugh (keyboards) and bassist Richard Cousins with Les Falconer on drums - tours the world more or less non-stop, resulting in the tightest of professional performances. Ninety minutes of classic Cray material - from his latest CD Nothin But Love to a spoilt-for-choice back catalogue - flew by. The sound was superb, testament to Lord Foster’s building design, the talents of the in-house technicians at the Sage and Cray’s road crew. Cray’s incomparable soul-blues voice, undiminished after years of life on the road, at one with his signature Fender Strat guitar sound, is a rare combination.
Strong Persuader and Smoking Gun were but two of many highlights. Organist Jim Pugh drove Cray to ever greater heights, Richard Cousins’ sinuous bass lines floated then danced, then floated and danced some more and Les Falconer’s in-the-pocket drumming was a master class. Cray’s vocals - arguably non better since Sam Cooke - left one thinking the next number couldn’t possibly be as good as the last, but it was, time and again. The wrought emotion of Chicken in the Kitchen has to be one of the best things heard in the nine year history of the Sage.
Robert Cray’s guest on this tour is Jon Allen. Singer, songwriter, guitarist, harmonica player, Allen was a revelation. Unannounced, the man with the Ford Focus (he felt inclined to tell us) strode onto stage and sang with no little confidence. Possessing a strong voice with an edge to it (think Steve Marriott, the best of early Rod the Mod) he writes songs about situations (Dead Man’s Suit) and relationships (Happy Now). Great voice, great lyrics, perhaps best  illustrated by Happy Now The lyric, delivered despairingly, if not with distain, goes…’I hope you’re happy now?’ Great stuff. Allen likes vinyl. His material is available on LP or the lesser option - CD. Check out Jon Allen, he’s good.
A great night at the Sage drew to a close with Robert Cray about to walk off stage yet he had the presence of mind to thank his special guest Jon Allen. Robert Cray is a class act.
Russell.                                  


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