By Nick McCabe - Front Row Photo
Robert Cray and his band played roughly a 90 minute set this past Saturday to a sold out house at Harrah’s South Shore Room at Lake Tahoe. Robert’s presentation is simple yet powerful and moving. Simple in that it’s only a four piece band with his old friend of over 40 years, Richard Cousins on bass guitar, Les Falconer on drums, and long time band member Jim Pugh on keyboards. Robert’s guitar styling is about as clean as it comes. He doesn’t rely on gadgetry to deliver a good sound. His guitar sound is as clean and crisp as anything you’ll hear, as is his voice. Robert belts out vocals with confidence and absolute clarity every time, and without any harmonies. I was trying to detect singing issues and came up empty. Robert Cray is a naturally gifted vocalist hitting every note every time.
Les Falconers drumming had both power and a light delicate touch to it. In songs like Forecast (Calls For Pain) he kicked in with a thunderous and powerful beat that got me unconsciously rocking back and forth before I knew it. In other songs requiring a more delicate touch we would be lightly tapping his cymbals or playing the drums with mallets. Richard Cousins bass playing was effortless, smooth, and supplied a fantastic solid bottom end groove. With a smile on his face and a soulful sway to his presence he was a pleasure to watch. Keyboardist Jim Pugh might look like he should be working in a bank or balancing a spreadsheet, but he sounds like he is right where he belongs. Jim has played with The Robert Cray Band since 1989, and has recorded with the likes of Etta James, BB King and Van Morrison. According to the website Propellerhead he has produced over a dozen CD’s, and has several movie and soundtrack credits to his name. His keyboards add a thickness to the arrangements with strings, piano, or organ sounds, and more – whatever the song calls for.
Although Robert’s performance was flawless he has a tendency to stare out over the crowd while he plays, but he does have great ‘guitar face’! It could be his method, it could be a sign of discomfort, or it could be intense concentration. It’s hard to say, and it’s probably not noticeable to most. I notice it in my photographs. However, he is personable on stage and takes time to talk to the audience and goof around occasionally between songs. At the end of the show he even signed two guitars that fans had put on the edge of the stage before the show. One of them was for a friend I was sitting with who get’s it signed often for his daughter. All in all, it was a good night of blues at Harrah’s South Shore Room.
…and the beat goes on.