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Mean Fiddler, London 16 April 2005

After making his name in the late 1960s and 1970s with Procul Harem, Robin Trower went solo and carved out a successful career, particularly in the USA, as something of a blues guitar hero. Though he continues to record to this day, he is still perhaps best known for the albums that he released in the 1970s, including ‘Long Misty Days’, ‘In City Dreams’ and particularly ‘Bridge of Sighs’. Now in his 60th year, he and his band were back in the UK for the first time in some years and it is some credit to his following that despite an extensive tour that takes him around the provincial circuit, a central London date at the Mean Fiddler was still sold out.

With the Mean Fiddlers inconvenient early curfews on a Saturday night, it was surprising that proceedings didn’t kick off until 8:30PM, when Trower, vocalist Davey Pattison, bassist Dave Bronze and drummer Pete Thompson took up their instruments and got things underway with ‘Too Rolling Stoned’. The amount of equipment on stage seemed tiny compared to most bands that play that venue, but they still packed a good punch.

With Trower promoting his latest album ‘Living Out of Time’, the setlist included a good number of new tunes. Starting with ‘Sweet Angel’ and ‘What’s Your Name’ both of which were rather short in length and rather straightforward bluesy numbers. ‘Rise up like The Sun’ from the 20th Century Blues album continued in the same vein before ‘Daydream’ gave Robin another opportunity to perform another longish solo. Vocalist Davey Pattison took a break while Trower gave a case study in the playing of a blues solo, grimacing his way through a series of harmonic and making ample use of the whammy bar on his Stratocaster.

Clearly appreciating the warmth of the crowd reaction, Trower thanked them and then introduced the title track of the new album. I say new album, but the album has been out in the States for over 18 months and has only recently been re-mixed and re-packaged for a European release. Then Trower himself took over the microphone himself for a rendition of ‘Breathless’ before the band moved into another couple of classic from the ‘Bridge of Sighs’ album.

The lively and more upbeat ‘Day of the Eagle’ got the crowd going and then Trower’s closing solo milked the crowd’s anticipation as he teased them and eventually bridged into ‘Bridge of Sighs’ itself. Davey Pattison’s vocal delivery was perfect and echoed perfectly the sound of Trower’s long-time and now sadly deceased vocalist James Dewar, but Robin’s famous lengthy solo seemed to lack drama, though the Mean Fiddler audience lapped it up.

The remainder of the set consisted of a couple more new songs, a long slow blues number, featuring another great Trower solo spot and then a further cut from ‘Bridge of Sighs’ to close. Even though it was close to the expected curfew time of 10PM, the audience clearly wasn’t going to let the band leave without playing at least one encore. Amazingly they managed to find time to play two before the lights went up. All in all, a fine show from one of Britain’s best-known and most enduring bluesmen.

Setlist (approx): Too Rolling Stoned / Sweet Angel / What's Your Name / Rise Up Like The Sun / Daydream / Living Out Of Time / Breathless / Day of the Eagle / Bridge of Sighs / Close Every Door / I Want You to Love Me / Please Tell Me / Little Bit of Sympathy

Encores: Come to Me / Secret Place

Review: Charlie Farrell

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