- Rex Theatre
Robin Trower has visited and rocked Pittsburgh, PA with his own unique style of rock n' blues and since as far back as the late 60's, originally with Procol Harum, and continuing on for nearly 40 years, with the most recent visit this past Thursday while on his 2006 tour. Just like a fine vintage guitar, he plays and sounds better and better each year without the slightest tinge of slowing down. In fact, after having personally seen him several times since the release of "Bridge Of Sighs" in 1974, and being an avid listener of his music for over 30 years; I can say with absolute certainty that he has perfected his unique signature sound and playing techniques to a far higher degree than ever before. It is just astounding to hear him play and realize what a true living testament to mastery of music in spite of living through the whole rock era at the top of the charts, coming out the other side in one piece...then evolving musically far beyond anything imaginable. Robin Trower is truly the personification of rock royalty and yet he wears it like a loose garment with complete humility. This is perhaps because what matters to him far more is the music. So there's something of great value to be learned here for aspiring guitar players of all ages that while making it to the top might be great, it's not really what matters most, certainly not to Robin. This makes him tops in my book as a musician and as a person who's always reaching and searching for something more. While the record industry ignores real music these days in lieu of "pop-rap-sample-crap", Trower fans still flock in droves in every city across the US when he comes to town.
This Pittsburgh venue was no different. It was completely sold out (as has been most of his tour) by Elko Concert Productions and is part of the second leg of the 2006 tour since America just can't seem to get enough of his soulful guitar playing and some real music! It was so exciting to see and feel the love of the crowd as they went screaming wild into standing ovations on nearly every solo section of songs like "Bridge of Sighs", "Too Rolling Stoned", "Daydream", "Day Of The Eagle" etc. In addition, his newer material is just absolutely killer - dripping with blues guitar tones to die for.
Digressing for a moment, it was a similar reaction when I went and saw him playing at the Cleveland House of Blues on July 2, 2006 (my second time this year), which was actually the first leg of the tour before he took a short rest back home in England. The fans there were just as wild over his amazing guitar playing that just ripped through the air with heart stopping majestic tones pulsating all around. Speaking of guitars, Fender recently honored Robin with his very own Robin Trower Signature Stratocaster® which he played all night. Though it comes in several standard colors, Fender now created a new custom color specially for Robin...Midnight Wine Burst and it is a beauty! How cool is that when they've only ever released a handful of artist signature models for the all time greats like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Buddy Guy?!
Back to the show, Robin's band mates including lead singer Davey Pattison on vocals is a dead ringer for original singer, James Dewar (now deceased) with a lot of style and a fantastic soulful voice. Pattison is a perfect fit as he never tries to upstage Robin and his voice in combination with Robin's playing is what really makes it all complete as did Dewars. Then there's thunderous rhythm section consisting of badass bassist Dave Bronze and masterful drummer Pete Thompson (who incidentally resembles Tony Sopranos brother-in law with these massive biceps). Pete's drumming is somewhat reminiscent of Buddy Miles' pounding "fatback" drum style along with mesmerizing cymbal background rhythmscapes perfectly complimenting Robin's moody and deliberate blues style. I got a chance to chat with Pete afterwards and what a cool British bloke he is as. Then Robin always gracefully meets and greets the fans and signs autographs after the shows! He even answered a couple of questions I had about his effects pedals. The washed out pic at the bottom is Robin sitting in his SUV after the show, with me in front as he was signing autographs after the show before heading off to the next city. (Obviously, the flash didn't go off). It figures!
There is also a brand new Robin Trower DVD recorded at the famous Rockpalast Festival in Germany 2005 for his 60th birthday party. If you want to see and hear how last night went first hand, do yourself a favor and get a copy of the DVD Here! You can also watch a short clip of it here Too Rolling Stoned or Bridge of Sighs This is one DVD you will watch again and again as I have already worn out my first one and had to get a new one at last night's show!
Opening Act - Pittsburgh Rock Legend Norman Nardini did a great acoustic/comedy act keeping the restless natives at bay for 40 minutes until Robin took the stage.
Robin Trower's Current Effects Pedals, Guitar & Amp Setup:
Guitar: Fender Robin Trower Signature Stratocaster in Midnight Wine Burst color which is based on the large 70's CBS headstock, 4 bolt neck with a Fender custom 50s pickup in the neck position, custom 60s pickup in middle and Tex Mex in bridge position with 3 springs in the tremolo and Sperzel locking tuners.
Effects pedals used: Robin uses Fulltone effects by Mike Fuller exclusively including the OCD Obsessive Compulsive Drive, Clyde McCoy Deluxe Wah (based on the original Vox Clyde McCoy Wah circuit used extensively by Jimi Hendrix) and the Deja Vibe 2 (Uni-Vibe Clone) along with a Boss TU-2 tuner.
On the DVD and an interview with Robin in Modern Guitar Magazine, his effects chain shows him using the Fulltone Soul Bender, the Distortion Pro and Fat Boost. Since the OCD came out, he has since stopped using those and now uses just the OCD for it's beautiful clean & transparent boost of low and highs with complex harmonics instead of the more distorted fuzz type and/or hi gain sound of the other pedals that can sometimes sacrifice clarity. This new combination seems to be the magic tone from the spheres when he cranks up his Strat through the OCD, into his Clyde Deluxe Wah, into the Deja Vibe 2 into dual Marshall half stack amplifiers! Woo Hoo!!!
Back in July, 2006, at the Cleveland House of Blues show, I asked him why he wasn't using the Fulltone Soul Bender at the moment and he said "Oh, I'm always changing things up a bit here and there monkeying around with effects" ....as any good tone junkie should I may add!
At the Pittsburgh show, I spotted 2 Fulltone OCD pedals connected together as the roadie did a sound check! Thinking "THIS" must be his secret to that killer tone aside from those magic fingers that barely seem to touch the strings as a barrage seemingly endless unearthly sounds permeate the air. So this was my one big question to ask him as I waited excitedly in line to get an autograph while he relaxed in the back seat of his SUV after the show. When I finally got to meet him for the second time since Cleveland in July, I mentioned my question about the Soul Bender at the July show. He nodded an said "Ah yes!" as if he remembered me, or politely seemed to and said about the 2 OCD's "Oh no! That second OCD is just for a backup..." Hmmm? I wonder...?! ;-) Glad I remembered to bring the binoculars, as I was able to see all the amp settings, how he played several favorite songs and walked right up to the pedals and made a mental notes of it all...don't bother asking though because I wouldn't dare tell!
Amplifiers: On the Living Out Of Time DVD he was using two Marshall JCM 900s because of their built in preamp distortion capability, but I think one of them went bad, so he's back to using a vintage Marshall JCM 800 from the 80's and a Marshall JMP Plexi that he used all the way back in the 70's when he toured around the Bridge Of Sighs time!
Book Info: There is a great book out called Gallagher, Marriott, Derringer and Trower : Rock Chronicles with a bio and interviews with Robin and his long-time manager and friend Derek Sutton, who has been instrumental to keeping Robin on the road all these years, as well as various past and present band members. It is just an incredible insight into his life and long lived career, on up to today including his deep Catholic based faith, his preference for Cracker Barrel & Bob Evans restaurants while touring the U.S., family, and his intensely private personal life. It's an absolute must read if you want to know more about this amazing member of rock royalty's elite.
Robin Trower just keeps on rockin' the blues with unquestionably THE most awesome rock n' soulful blues tones the world has ever known! God Bless him and his band. Hopefully, they will return again for many years to come.
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