The evening of May 2nd found the Scribblaire and a small selection of friends and family in Basingstoke. Although most of the cultural events I attend are in and around London, I headed in completely the opposite direction on this occasion. The reason for this digression was that Robert Cray and his band were playing at the Anvil.
The Robert Cray band are currently touring the UK and Europe. When the Scribblaire first discovered this, it was tinged with some disappointment as the date I saw advertised was on 4th May at the Barbican. Unfortunately, this was the date we were flying out to Cyprus for a few days. I decided to see whether there were any other dates and lo!, that’s how we came to be in Basingstoke!
I would have ventured even further afield if necessary as Robert Cray is a long-time musical hero of the Scribblaire. My sister and I ‘discovered’ him in the late 1980’s when he came into mainstream pop through his work with Tina Turner. He is best known for his ‘Strong Persuader’ album, which was the first that I bought. The title song was released as a single and is probably the most recognisable of his ‘old’ stuff.
The evening did not disappoint! It started with a short set from a talented-but-shouty singer-songwriter called Azadeh, who warmed everyone up for the big act. As always with properly talented bands, there was no need for a big build up. The band walked onto the stage, plugged themselves in and started to play. The bassist, Richard Cousins, came on stage barefooted, which was only slightly less footwear than the great man himself, who was wearing flip-flops!! Ordinarily, I wouldn’t consider this particularly cool (just the opposite in fact), but on this occasion it just added to the uber-cool, laid back vibe of the evening.
Most of the set was taken from the latest album ‘In My Soul’, each number introduced by Mr Cray. A broken piano stool, a dodgy amp and some amusing quips added to the light-hearted approach the band took. They were clearly enjoying themselves. The audience (myself included unfortunately) consisted mainly of (how can I put this politely?) more mature fans, which meant that they were generally inanimate throughout the show. That said, since most of the numbers were very bluesy, some nodding heads and a bit of air guitar was probably acceptable. Woven between some trademark blues guitar were a couple of quite funky numbers though, which made the Scribblaire want to get up and boogie a bit. I resisted the temptation though.
As with all good things, the evening ended too soon. I loved him before and, now that I’ve seen him live, love him even more. Robert Cray is considered to be one of the greatest living blues guitarists and it’s not difficult to see why.
Go and see him if you can.