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National Beat: Robert Cray Shows Us How It Should Be Done

What a show!
What a show!
all photos by Nick McCabe - Front Row Photo

Robert Cray playing JA Nugget in Sparks Nevada


By Nick McCabe – Front Row Photo

I’ve seen Robert Cray at least four or five times, but this show was the best ever. Let’s face it. You can’t hit a home run every time you come to bat, but when you do…boy what a feeling! This past Saturday (April 19th) he and his band killed it at John Ascuaga's Nugget in Sparks. Robert was in a good mood this evening and he shared that mood with his audience. He was smiling and introduced every song by title and in some cases sharing a story behind it. He responded to people in the audience who couldn’t help but try and get involved by tossing out quick responses and smiles to them. I truly believe that the recipe for a good show includes a few dashes of audience interaction. People come to live shows to have an experience they can’t have any other way. They want to see their hero for the night be human. And talk about relaxed! He came to the stage in sandals, but was beaten out on the casual scale by his lifelong friend and bass player Richard Cousins who was barefoot. What a couple of hippies!

They started the show with “Won’t Be Coming Home” and then moved on to “Poor Johnny”. Although Robert seems to always be touring, this trip comes on the heels of his new album released less than three weeks earlier, In My Soul from which they played several songs including “You Move Me, I Guess I’ll Never, and Appetite”. This album includes a change of band lineup and production team by bringing in some old friends, and it seems to have made a difference. I really like what I heard. Sometimes you have to make the hard decisions and shake it up to get something fresh to come to the surface. I was actually a little apprehensive about this show, because the last time I saw Robert play I felt like he wasn’t into it that night. He performed and sang well, but something was missing. I’m really glad I made this show – this was a home run!

If you know the blues you’ll agree that Robert’s style is unmistakable. He has a crisp clean presentation that is absolutely unique, and his voice is spot on. His singing is perfect in tone, pitch and emotional depth. It has a slight vibrato to it that is like spice on the perfect dish. During “It Doesn’t Show” he and the band got so gentle and quiet that you could hear a wine glass drop (or a pin) in the theatre. It got softer and softer until you just couldn’t hear it anymore, but his fingers were still moving and the drummer’s sticks were still moving – it was amazing. Lyrically speaking Robert Cray is a story teller. If you listen to his words or read his lyrics you sense that he is sharing personal experiences. They wrapped up the show with an encore of “Forecast (Calls For Pain)” from 1990’s Midnight Stroll, and “Hip Tight Onions” from his new album, In My Soul.

Besides the aforementioned Richard Cousins on bass guitar, the band consisted of Les Falconer on drums and Dover Weinberg on keyboards. I think Robert and I could be friends. We are only one year apart in age and were influenced early on by the same people. He was sparked into playing by the Beatles (me too), and he was heavily influence by Jimi Hendrix (my first concert). I think we could be buddies, but he never returns my calls. I’ll get over it.

…and the beat goes on.

To see the pictures without pop-ups, click here.

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(and a quick shout out to the birthday girl at our table)