<a href=”http://www.komedia.co.uk/bath”>Komedia, Bath is a new venue for Bluesdoodles, and the theatre that at one time was a cinema was very majestic, the only tiny gripe was it was all seater, and as the seats downstairs had been carefully placed there could have been a standing area for the audience members who would prefer to stand. Opening the evening Tristan MacKay, a talented young solo acoustic artist who delivered a series of self-penned numbers that like many singer/songwriters straddle blues/folk. Tristan played an excellent set, delivered with aplomb and using his melodic voice to good effect, despite the level of noise from the audience arriving to see the main act of the evening. His banter between songs was good so we all got to know this young man a little bit better; including that Tristan was hailed from Devon and started his musical career busking in the small town of Tiverton, moving on to Leeds – larger but definitely colder! This combination of an easy, friendly manner with great guitar playing and singing at times reminded me of Marcus Bonfanti, which is no mean feat. Tristan has one CD under his belt and a second due to be recorded very soon on his label ‘Battered Hat Records‘; appropriately named as a battered hat is worn by Tristan on stage. Tristan though has a clever trick up his sleeve which he used with a light touch the use of the loop to bring additional layers of sound and at times deeper or different tone to the rendition as demonstrated on ‘Wire and Wood‘, adding a percussive timbre to this great song. The all too short set was mainly his own compositions, his cover of John Mayer’s ‘Gravity’ was not the first song you would associate with an acoustic act, but once again with the clever use of loop pedal, he achieved 3 or even 4 layers of sound. Tristan finished the all too short set, with a personal song ‘Lullaby for Layla‘ composed for his soon to be expected baby daughter; a beautiful song for what is a precious experience for this young man. The set was entertaining, inventive and the use of acoustic and electric guitars, depending on the song made this an impressive and popular with the audience support for the much-anticipated Robben Ford following after a short break.
Robben Ford Band, a four piece, opened up with a funky number, ‘Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky‘, with Robben producing his trademark stunning tone from his Gibson 335. With immaculate timing and note perfection, combined with sublime accompaniment provided by a trio consisting of Rich Peterson, Keys, Tony Moore, Drums, and Brian Allen, Double Bass. It is the pure strength and talent of these three musicians that provides Robben with real freedom to sell his wares and boy can he play his guitar, with a unique blending of precision and passion. Tonight’s show was an opportunity to showcase his latest album, Bringing It Back Home, including, ‘Birds Nest Bound‘ written by Big Joe Williams which is a slower tempo classic blues and, as they all play a solo piece, there is a jam feel demonstrating that the band really knows how to listen to each other; and ‘Oh, Virginia” the only Ford authored tune on the album is a pretty romantic ballad delivered in a laid-back soulful way; with the emotional line, ‘ hard times hunger on’ with the band in perfect balance, creating layers of scintillating harmonies, with the growl of the bass, mellow chords from the organ, crisp sharp drumming and then the crowning glory Robben’s faultless guitar and voice that blends the emotion of the song and the instruments together. The show is an evening of changing tempo’s and origins, making every track delivered interesting and keeping the audience really engaged. The sounds produced were very modern, funky blues with a generous twist of jazz, the guitar licks were delightful, including subtle changes that were mellow and so relaxing, the breaks were never too long and always relevant to the song and the other musicians came in on the beat every-time. Robben started the gig off on a high note and the playing just got better and better as he and the band relaxed and played themselves into the zone; one of the highlights had to be his rendition of a traditional gospel tune which as he told us, we recorded it and called it ‘On That Morning‘, yes in this instrumental the guitar dominated, not in an aggressive way but through the purity of sound produced with the interlude of drum and bass, then Rich on keys joined in it was simply beautiful music, which was as sweet as a nut, pure pleasure, which was reflected in the warm applause, and amidst all this Robben quietly re-tuned his guitar and carried on no dramatics, no techie to assist, no this was professional musicianship and stage craft at the top of the tree. Robben’s, nephew Gabriel is a songwriter and drummer for Little Feat, wrote ‘Too Much‘ from the CD Truth and this saw a change of guitar as the Gibson SG was bought into action, providing a harsher edge to the sound which suited the track perfectly. This was a long set with no break for Robben who was upfront playing his heart out; then from Supernatural, ‘Nothing and Nobody’ written in collaboration with Mick MacDonald, the whole band was on stage; and then Robben left the stage and the trio remaining played on; then Rich left and the keys fell silent and a drum and bass duet was played, demonstrating the strength of the rhythm section without doubt the heartbeat of the Robben Ford sound; and then Brian left leaving the stage to the sole domain of Tony Moore, who produced a a drum solo that was full of finesse, no crash bang wallop solo but one rising to a crescendo of absolute drumming power… wow what an interlude; and then the rest of the band came back on picked up the beat and carried on playing!
The whole gig was a jewel box of shining gems, every note was played and showcased to deliver the ethos of the songs, wow, this is going to be one of the gigs of 2013, an encore was demanded and they obliged with ‘Fool’s Paradise”, then all too soon it was the end, like me I am sure many in the audience wanted the music to go on and on.