Robin Trower at Pabst Theater
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Between the historic walls of the Pabst Theater Sunday evening, a particularly fascinating sight appeared. At 8:55 p.m., hundreds of adult men sporting light and dark blue jeans; Jack Daniel’s T-shirts; baseball caps; and a few long, grey ponytails, entered the intimate theater. With fists clenching cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon or the occasional hard cocktail—and with few female companions in view—these good and loyal Milwaukee gentlemen were all present with a mission: to hail Robin Trower, guitar god.
Trower had his first major success in the late 1960s with the British rock band Procol Harum, with the song “A Whiter Shade Of Pale,” which is listed as No. 57 in Rolling Stone’s list of the top 500 songs of all time. He went on to achieve success as a solo artist, most notably for his 1974 album, Bridge Of Sighs.
Sunday’s 70-minute set began with “Confessin’ Midnight,” from 1975’s For Earth Below, and “Lady Love,” from Bridge Of Sighs. The diminutive, white-haired Davey Pattison, wearing a white long-sleeved shirt and a black leather vest, rocked the house with large, smooth, and powerful vocals. Pattison gave a solid live performance, exuding a quiet coolness, and never tried too hard. He frequently left the stage to pay homage to Trower’s breathtaking guitar solos in songs like “Shame The Devil,” “Day Of The Eagle,” “Bridge Of Sighs,” “Little Bit Of Sympathy,” and “Too Rolling Stoned.”
Trower is a mesmerizing guitar player, and he owns his soulful, bluesy style. A comparison to any other guitar player is disingenuous; the man is truly in a class by himself. Trower felt the music deeply enough Sunday night to cause audience members to yell out “Rip it up!” during “Too Rolling Stoned,” and to raise both arms and literally bow down to him as he grooved with his signature Fender Stratocaster. He used two custom pickups throughout the night: a ’50s reissue that aired an open, sweet sound; and a ’60s reissue that blared out harder riffs. His Strat melded with his body, so much that it seemed Trower became the music, and the music became him.
The evening also included a performance of “The Turning,” from Trower’s 2010 release, The Playful Heart. Trower donned simple blue jeans, grey cowboy boots, and a blue T-shirt displaying the cover art from the record—a gold and black heart, which he designed himself. At 66 years old, Trower proved he’s a deeply creative man of substance, and one that’s simply getting better with age.