Robert Cray @ the Liverpool Philharmonic review

Posted on 5 July 2010
By Danny Keightley
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When asked who your favourite axe hero is; it’s unlikely you’ll say the Georgian blues virtuoso Robert Cray, but those lucky enough to see his sold out set at the Liverpool Philarmonic may be inclined to change their mind.

Joined by his effortlessly talented three piece band (Richard Cousins, Jim Pugh, and Tony Braunagel).

Cray swaggers on stage, unbelievably fresh-faced (the man is 57) clutching onto a green strat, before bursting into a set of chilled grooves, laced with the kind of goosepimple inducing crooning that is perhaps not expected from a man renowned for his guitar work.

His highly eccentric bass player, Cousins, often acts out the lyrics like some kind of bizarre onstage charades whilst the subtleties of Pughs key and organ playing add gospel intensity to tracks such as the Sitting On Top Of The World.

Often speaking off-mic without realising it, Cray loftily steps around stage between songs ‘Everything is funky!’ he declares ‘like this!’ before launching into Smoking Gun.

Cray’s set is complete with two standing ovations and two encores in which That’s What Keeps me Rockin’ has the crowd in a toe tapping — head nodding trance whilst Cray and co bring forth so much cool to a hot and muggy night in Liverpool.

A special mention is deserved for Cray’s support act, Andy Fairweather Low who (unlike Cray) aged a lot since his time of prime, and indulges the crowd in a semi-acoustic set. ‘I was gonna bring an electric guitar, but Robert’s playing so I thought it’d be too much.’

Only seeming to introduce his backing band without ever really introducing himself until his bassist does it for him at the end (in case you didn’t know who this talented old man performing to you was). But it really should’ve been obvious when he delivered the incredible Hymn for my Soul.

From a sketchy blues intro through a selection of Gospel, R&B (old-school), and pop to a song dedicated to the England football team (When You’re Smiling) which effectively has the whole theater grinning, and forgetting our collective (recent) losses. Andy successfully kick starts a fantastic night.