Gig review: Robert Cray Band, Edinburgh

Even though he’s 60 now, Robert Cray came across as anything but the grizzled, world-weary blues veteran at this sold-out show, instead sounding more youthful than he has in years, evidently re-energised by his re-engagement with classic 1960s/70s Stax/Chess Records sounds on new album In My Soul.

Robert Cray: Anything but grizzled

Robert Cray Band - Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh

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Plenty of banter between the songs complemented a performance as relaxed as it was razor-sharp, by both Cray and his three-piece band – Dover Weinberg on piano/keyboards, bassist Richard Cousins on bass and Les Falconer on drums – cementing a wonderfully intense, intimate rapport with the crowd that at times recalled the electric fervour of a revivalist meeting. It was only appropriate, therefore, that gospel also featured in the show’s rich stylistic mix, notably in What Would You Say, one of the original tracks on In My Soul tracks, which also evoked the illustrious shades of Marvin Gaye and Otis Redding.

The set-list also roved widely across the five-time Grammy winner’s earlier material, right from the title track of his 1983 release Bad Influence, and Right Next Door off 1986’s breakthrough LP Strong Persuader. An exhilarating rendition of the more recent Side Dish extended the vintage mood with a gleeful rockabilly workout, while another In My Soul cut, the deliciously slinky yet frisky instrumental Hip Tight Onions, paid faithful yet inventive tribute to Booker T. All in all, the gig reaffirmed that Cray is much more than a virtuoso bluesman, and is equally eloquent as a guitarist and singer – though a total set-length of just 80 minutes, including encore, seemed a little stingy given the amount of love in the room.

Seen on 17.05.14