Word by: Martin Halo | Images by: Rod Snyder
Robert Cray :: 02.22.08 :: B.B. King Blues Club :: New York, NY
There is something comforting about seeing an act like Robert Cray in the flesh. It is as if God himself cast a protective aura around the soul of the entertainer so that he may bring joy to the people who need it most. Those who came didn't hear about this show on the radio. They didn't buy tickets or wrestle the weather because it was the cool thing to do. They came to see the blues done with respect and reverence, delivered from the moaning gut of a true entertainer.
The crowd was a mature one that walked down the steps leading into the basement of B.B. King Blues Club in Manhattan's Times Square. The entire floor was covered in seats with waitresses on hand, accented by cushioned booths lining the interior. With the nostalgia of a juke joint cutting through the air, the stage was set. The fried calamari graced the tables, the beer fertilized the senses and just when you remembered what you were here to see, the house lights retreated.
Robert Cray stepped into the spotlight for the opening night of a late winter tour leg, and New York City was exuberant. His collection of Stratocasters bled the cleanest of tones that weaved in and out of emotional pictures of trampled hearts, scorned lovers and other despairing souls.
Though Cray stood front and center, it was by no means his show alone. The supporting lineup consisted of Kevin Hayes (drums), Jim Pugh (keys) and Carl Sevareid (bass). What made this band so engaging was their ability to stay out of each other's way. They complimented one another's respective tones with palpable harmony. Heads bobbling, the room became trusting and emotionally vulnerable.
Before we could do something ill advised, Cray slapped us across the face with a rendition of blues standard "Sitting on Top of the World." The haunting riff exploded in the air like a boulder rolling down the side of a mountain. As Cray picked bursts of notes from positions spanning the entire guitar neck, his delivery was direct, backed dazzlingly by his bandmates.
Robert Cray Band :: 02.22 :: NYC
Cray and his band are still touring in support of their first official concert album, Live From Across the Pond. Cray's originals tap into the feeling of lost and illusive love. On a few numbers the band would take a step back and Cray would vocally break it down, talking to the crowd like a scorned lover.
With the set clocking in around 105 minutes, "Time Makes Two" served as the guitar-drenched encore. A polite version of an announcement then came over the house PA: "You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here!" B.B. Kings had to empty out for a late performance of a White Stripes Tribute Band. Though the urge was strong, I didn't stick around.
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