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Robin Trower + Connolly Hayes

Tuesday 28th May 2024

Islington Assembly Hall, London

Tuesday evening turned out to be full of pleasant surprises, the first of which was the quality of the support set by Connolly Hayes. Vocalist Jess Hayes and guitarist Frankie Connolly were joined on this occasion only by an unannounced keyboard player and immediately got our attention with a fine cover of Stephen Stills’ classic ‘Love The One You’re With’.

The next song, they told me post-gig, was titled ‘Tired Of This Love’ and I assume it to be an original of theirs, whereas Joey Landreth was credited as the inspiration for the following ‘What Do You Want The Girl To Do’ (although a bit of online research suggests that it was written by Allen Toussaint and has been covered by such luminaries as Boz Scaggs and Little Feat’s Lowell George).

The highlight of the half hour set was a cracking cover of the Tedeschi Trucks Band’s ‘Midnight In Harlem’; I don’t know whether Jess was braver than Frankie or vice versa in taking on Susan Tedeschi’s vocals or Derek Trucks’ guitar part respectively, but both of them came through with flying colours! Connolly’s own ‘Frank’s Song’ brought an end to a well received set and anyone interested in investigating the band further may wish to attend their album launch gig at the 100 Club on Tuesday 18th June.

The main set was equally full of surprises… I’d expected vocalist Sari Schorr to be present, so that they could plug their recent ‘Joyful Sky’ album; however, not only was she absent, but not one song from that release made it into the setlist! Robin stuck with a classic guitar-bass-drums power trio and mined almost half of the set list from his previous album ‘No More Worlds To Conquer’ (2022).

That album provided the opener ‘The Razor’s Edge’, before we were allowed our first wallow in nostalgia with a classic cut from ‘Bridge Of Sighs’ (1974). Bassist Richard Watts handled ‘Too Rolling Stoned’ and all the other vocals capably, but could not reasonably be expected to match the brilliance that the late, great Jimmy Dewar brought to the original recordings.

Returning to the 2022 release, Robin ripped off a lengthy solo which belied his 79 years on ‘Wither On The Vine’, which was quickly followed by ‘Cloud Across The Sun’ from the same album. ‘Somebody Calling’ was a welcome reminder of ‘In City Dreams’ (1981), while ‘Distant Places Of The Heart’ was taken from the ‘Seven Moons’ (2007) album which was co-led by Jack Bruce; I’m pretty sure the latter was played as an instrumental on the night, but I was getting rather lost in the music, so I may be wrong! The grungy opening of ‘Ball Of Fire’ saw another dip into 2022, before the deeply Bluesy ‘It’s Too Late’ from ‘B.L.T.’ (1981) brought back more memories of JB (and, of course, the underrated drummer Bill Lordan).

Of course ‘Bridge Of Sighs’ remains Robin’s magnum opus and this year represents that album’s golden anniversary; a four disc boxed set marks this landmark and Robin’s merch stand was somehow able to provide it 20% cheaper and ten days quicker than the world’s biggest online retailer (perhaps the night’s most welcome surprise!). From that masterpiece we were treated to ‘Day Of The Eagle’, with its machine gun drumming (provided by Chris Taggart, I believe, although he wasn’t introduced), followed by an extended Trower workout on the title track. Live music at its finest!

‘Rise Up Like The Sun’ (from ‘20th Century Blues’, 1994) kept up the pace, before perhaps Watts’ best vocal of the night on ‘Daydream’ (from ‘Twice Removed From Yesterday’, 1973). The title track from ‘No More Worlds To Conquer’ led us to a glorious set closer in ‘Little Bit Of Sympathy’ (also from ‘Bridge Of Sighs’), with Robin giving his pedal board little respite!

Only 70 minutes, but quality always wins out over quantity and the band was roared back on stage for ten more minutes. The encore comprised two songs, the first of which was shown in the setlist as ‘Rescue Me’; although it was unrecognisable from the Fontella Bass hit, it probably was a reworking of that song, as Robin played on and co-produced a cover version by Bryan Ferry thirty years ago. The closer ‘Birdsong’ was another selection from 2022.

I have never left a Trower gig less than satisfied, but this show may have topped the lot; if we never do this again, it will still represent one hell of a sign- off. Hopefully Robin will remain in robust good health, though, and will be back to entertain us again as he enters his next decade.

Gary Smith

Photos: John Bull

Setlists:

CH – Love The One You’re With; Tired Of This Love; What Do You Want The
Girl To Do?; Midnight In Harlem; Frank’s Song.

RT – The Razor’s Edge; Too Rolling Stoned; Wither On The Vine; Cloud
Across The Sun; Somebody Calling; Distant Places Of The Heart; Ball
Of Fire; It’s Too Late; Day Of The Eagle; Bridge Of Sighs; Rise Up Like
The Sun; Daydream; No More Worlds To Conquer; Little Bit Of
Sympathy; Rescue Me; Birdsong.

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