Alan Semok wrote this review specially for 'Beyond the Pale': thanks!
Club Bene is a terrific venue ... a small, cosy club with a layout that allows for a great view of the stage no matter where you're sitting. Even the furthest, sidemost seats in this rectangular shaped room have an unobstructed and amazingly close view of the stage. From both a sound and visual standpoint, there truly are no bad seats in this venue. Trower has played here several times over the years, as have Annie Haslam of Renaissance (she appeared there the evening after Trower as a matter of fact), Dave Mason, Andy Summers, Edgar and Johnny Winter, Leon Russell, Larry Carlton, America, Randy Bachman, Jean Luc Ponty, Al DiMeola, and the list goes on and on. The coming events schedule board looked like a who's who in the history of Jazz, fusion, and classic rock music.
The show on this nearly-sold-out Friday night (with about 500 fans in attendance) opened with a smoking and very well received 50 minute set by BB and The Stingers, a well-known and very well-regarded NY / NJ area blues band.
After a brief interval, the Trower band took the stage quickly and launched into their 80 minute set comprising a nice cross section of material from RT's solo albums ... though I kept hoping beyond hope for a rendition of Crucifiction Lane, which sadly never came. And all the sadder it was since Trower was in very fine vocal form, singing about half of the selections himself (with his bass player very nicely covering the rest of the vocal chores). From the moment they took the stage, the intensity was electric, with the material ranging from churning blues to more free-form and psychedelic explorations.
His backup players (bass and drums) were a tight unit, obviously enjoying working with the star of the show. Their undeniably solid and no-frills foundation provided a fine backup for Trower's awesome skills, which thankfully relied entirely on real virtuoso handling of his instrument and very, very little enhancement from effects pedals or other outboard processing gear. When such devices were used, they were used with admirable moderation to ultimately good and subtle effect.
Listening to RT on this night made clear once again why he left Procol when he did ... he just obviously needed to break out and really wail as the main focus of the band. It was Procol's loss ... his contribution was a special one and his ensemble work with PH was no less intense, certainly at times equalling his solo work when the songs demanded it ... and Procol was certainly a different band without him. But hearing him live with his own band once again reinforced the feeling that he absolutely did what was right for him. The fans in attendance on Friday night certainly agree.
All in all, quite a show, ending with two encores, and three standing ovations. Well deserved ones, too. The infectious, beaming smile RT had on his face throughout the evening was a pretty good indication that he was enjoying it as much as the audience was.
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