Azedah opened the evening with an easy charm when interacting with the audience. Vocally there were too many tremolos and OOo’s wooould yuùooo’s for me and her guitar skills were limited. Musically she lacks that element of difference to make her stand-out from the crowd of singer-songwriters who are proficient but lack that edge of risk, and yes the opening act was a safe pair of hands to warm up the audience as they waited for Robert Cray.
Then the act everyone was here to see, Robert Cray and his band entered in darkness: lights go up and straight into I Shiver, a Cray classic that draws the audience in as he creates the distinctive Cray tone out of his Fender Guitars either the Stratocaster or Telecaster.
The stage set-up worked for me better that the last time I saw him March 2013 – with Dover Weinberg on Hammond organ to the left and Les Falconer on drums behind and bare-footed charismatic bass player Richard Cousins on the right a three-sided square of harmony the perfect foil for Robert to ply his trade with his mellow blues voice which woos the crowd and his pitch perfect guitar work.
He delivers conventional blues but he delivers them with panache and makes the whole act seem effortless. Listen and you hear a wealth of musical influence Chicago, Detroit, Reggae and Funk weaved in throughout this set with a merest hint of fusion blues. The show feels fresher as he celebrates 40 years of bringing solid blues to his fans and his new album release In My Soul; playing with more verve, enthusiasm and purpose from the last time he played Cardiff… The layout with him in the centre of the band works better and the incessant guitar change has thankfully been thrown out of the act. His voice is as strong as ever a cocktail of ranges and emotions streaming and flowing across the auditorium with a stream of perfectly mixed notes poured over ice when the mood gets chilly as in Your Good Thing is About to End from his latest album.
Huge applause as the first notes struck for Right Next Door (Because of Me); the change in guitar and bass gave that heavy despairing undertone that this needs the sound from the band was loud funky and they definitely enjoyed playing this evergreen track for the zillionth time. The set was full of Robert Cray magic and his Hip Tight Onions part of the trio of numbers in the encore was a real gem. The audience was delighted as we listened to an evening of the accomplished stylised Blues he delivers every-time, safe and you will never be shocked he does what he does really well.
Thoughts from some of the 1000 members of the audience:-
“His voice is always special.. guitar playing doesn’t do it for me..”.
“…An evening of relaxed Blues…”
“.. He did play some cool funky Blues, and though he is a well-respected musician, he didn’t really engage with the audience (not much chat between numbers),or with his band for that matter. I know people want to see musicians play, but when I see someone live, I want to see something and hear something I can’t get on CD, something that makes me think, ‘I bought a ticket and he really entertained me”. … The Garage Blues Club, Swansea
“He does it well, no-nonsense stuff…old time”