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Shepherd's Bush Empire, London 5 August 2009

It's owning up time. When you get to the point of being part of rock's aristocracy like Jack Bruce, it's no longer about the money or indeed the expectation. Rather it's about the joy of just being healthy, happy and being able to play.

And while that is a commendable reason for rekindling an old musical relationship with Robin Trower there's a downside. The comfort zone is such that it matters not how well the latest album is selling - indeed you don't even need to announce the song titles - when you can sporadically fall back on the trusted Cream back catalogue to keep the fans happy.

But then you are 66 years old and have just recovered from serious ill heath why not? Fine. You pay your money and what you get is the Jack Bruce's peerless vocals, fluid bass playing and understated charisma. And god knows this band needs the latter as Robin Trower says nothing all night, contenting himself with an occasional smile and all too seldom cutting lose with his wah wah injected psychedelic guitar lines.

Gary Husband meanwhile made a great fist of gluing everything together with a voracious, powerhouse of a drum set that managed to inject life into even the most languid of songs.

And in truth Bruce, Trower and Husband had too many of those tonight for even Gary to be able to redress the balance.

For example, while both vaguely eastern sounding 'Distant Places of the Heart' and the older 'Carmen' showed Jack still has a fine voice, they ultimately lost their impact simply because too much of the set sounded the same.

With the exception of the obvious Cream nuggets plus the unexpected and well received 'We're Going Wrong', the gig mirrored the '7 Moons' album to such an extent that you might as well have stayed at home and listened to either the CD or watched the DVD.

And while its great to find Jack back on form, Trower's body language suggested he would have been far happier in an altogether different musical context. Even on the highlight of the show, a jammed out second half of 'Sunshine of Your Love', it was Bruce's bass that dominated with Trower contributing tasteful tonal nuances without really asserting himself.

There was a similar feeling of circumspection on the slow blues of 'Bad Case of Celebrity' and when it came to the pause for the guitar break on 'Politician', Trower's solo was a bundle of noodles rather than a required succinct incisive thrust.

And therein lies the problem. Robin is the king of tone, the prince of wah wah and the post Hendrix overseer of psychedelia, but in this band he sounds cramped, hemmed in and almost claustrophobic, as he unsuccessfully searched for space for his potentially mesmerising lines.

Only on the title track of the new CD did he really come into his own with his trademark tone and wah wah, but for the most part you got the impression he is biding its time for an altogether different solo career.

Bruce, Trower & Husband have apparently already planned for 2010, but like their previous existence as BLT, you don't hold to much hope for an elongated career.

Review by Pete Feenstra

Album review

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