Wednesday, September 19 , 2018, 10:11 am | Fair 68º

 
 
 
 

Jeff Moehlis: Robin Trower’s Spellbinding Guitar Heroics

He performs a night of Hendrix-inspired blues-based rock in Ventura

“We were spellbound.” These lyrics from Robin Trower’s song “Daydream” give an excellent summary of the experience of listening to his guitar playing at the Majestic Ventura Theater on Tuesday night.

Trower first gained fame as the guitarist for Procol Harum, playing on their classic late ‘60s and early ‘70s prog-tinged albums. When he left after 1971’s Broken Barricades, he followed the direction hinted at on that album’s “Song for a Dreamer” and his earlier Procol Harum song “Whisky Train,” namely Jimi Hendrix-inspired blues-based rock.

He went on to release more than 20 albums in this vein, including 1974’s acclaimed Bridge of Sighs.

At the concert, Trower and his band — Davey Pattison on vocals, Glenn Letsch on bass and Pete Thompson on drums — played some of the best-known tracks from Bridge of Sighs: “Too Rolling Stoned,” “Day of the Eagle” and, of course, the title track that received a well-deserved standing ovation after Trower’s extended guitar workout.

Also on the program were other key early-1970s tracks “Twice Removed from Yesterday” and “Shame the Devil,” plus the newer “Distant Places of the Heart” from Trower’s recent collaboration with Cream’s Jack Bruce, and “The Turning” and “Not Inside — Outside” from Trower’s new album, The Playful Heart.

Trower’s guitar mastery dominated the evening, and he amply demonstrated that the Fender Stratocaster, in the right hands, is perhaps the most expressive of all guitars. His distorted tone is a guitarist’s dream, courtesy of a carefully chosen combination of effects pedals (wah-wah, some variation of a Uni-Vibe and others) feeding into his Marshall amps. His playing ranged from fiery to slower and sustained, but always was tasteful and without unnecessary flash.

Although Trower is not as well known as other Strat-wielding guitar heroes such as Hendrix, Eric Clapton and David Gilmour, he has a level of technical ability that few can match.

It’s too bad he ignored his Procol Harum days — playing some of those songs would have given the evening more variety — but I personally never grew tired of his molten tone and spellbinding guitar solos.

Setlist

Confessin’ Midnight
Lady Love
Somebody Calling
Distant Places of the Heart
Twice Removed from Yesterday
Daydream
Day of the Eagle
Bridge of Sighs
Shame the Devil
The Turning
Too Rolling Stoned
Little Bit of Sympathy
Rise Up Like the Sun
Not Inside — Outside

Noozhawk contributor Jeff Moehlis is an associate professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his Web site, music-illuminati.com.

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