Robert Cray review 9-2-19 Tucson

Posted: September 8, 2019 in Music
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I’ve been wanting to see Robert Cray since he released a number of great blues albums in the 1980s, notably Bad Influence, Too Many Cooks, and Strong Persuader, which featured great songwriting, vocals, and guitar playing, and which were basically an updated version of (jazz influenced) West Coast Blues — and I finally saw him last night.

Technically, all of the guys in his current band (especially Cray and the keyboard player) are great, and sometimes it’s just nice to see good players do their thing.

Having said that, I was bored shitless. Cray played somewhere between 16 and 20 tunes (counting the two encores — kudos to him for that), but all of the tunes were in a very narrow tempo and rhythmic range: all in straight time, but for a single song, and almost all in a very narrow tempo range I’d estimate at about 100 – 120 bpm. A lot of the time the drummer was just playing a standard rock beat and minor variations thereof. That ain’t blues, no way, no how. The only remotely interesting beat was one the drummer did on the snare and kick drum, shuffling the first beat, and then doing the rest straight (One …. a 2 and …. and 4) while using a shaker in his right hand. As well, the structure of a good majority of the tunes was quite simple, and had nothing in common with blues progressions, let alone jazz progressions.

In other words, Cray wasn’t playing the blues: he was playing rock with a very thin blues veneer.

The horrible part is that most of the audience loved it (about 10% of the audience walked out, to their credit; I would have, too, but the GF was into it). The only changes in the tempo were in the final tune before the encores (about 140 to start and ramped up a bit from there) and the second, slow encore, which was probably in the mid-80s).

I’m very glad that I got comps for this — yes, I’m biting the hand that fed me — but Jesus F. Christ, seeing Cray playing this formulaic crap is depressing. He used to be so much better than this.

Assuming he continues this crowd-pleasing, money-making crap, I wouldn’t drive across town to see him.


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