Jack Bruce, Robin Trower, Gary Husband
February 26, 2009
Music, like many of life's other great personalized pleasures (romance, fine dining, etc.), must often be considered in stages: immediate sensation, subsequent impact, lingering perceptioneach has a vital role in determining how chosen delicacies play out in the taste buds of long-term memory.
So it was in Cologne with the return of Jack Bruce, Robin Trower, and Gary Husband. The bassist Bruce and drummer Husband share formative, traditional jazz roots and have ventured along classical and abstract fringes over the years, but tonight they were laying down heavy cosmic blues. It was a high-quality classic rock format, though short of a classic performance. Trower, the well-traveled guitarist, carried the show in terms of musical high points.
That's not to say this wasn't an entertaining, worthwhile event. Bruce deserves iconic status for making history on the English rock scene, and his vocals were still very stirring overall. When the band covered four songs by Cream"We're Going Wrong," "White Room," the inevitable "Sunshine of Your Love," and the jamming encore "Politician"the packed house of approximately five hundred roared and swayed in grinning approval. The program, after all, was exactly what they had come for.
The rest of what proved to be an uneven, 80-minute set consisted of the group's entire 2008 collaboration Seven Moons and one excellently revived song, "Carmine," from Bruce and Trower's 1970s' BLT project. There were some slips and slides, but genuine, high-energy rapport between Bruce and Trower minimized miscues.
Bruce was definitely the star attraction, but that shouldn't mean his bass needed to be twice as loud as the drums or guitar. There were clarity and balance problems that remained when I moved from the stage to the back of the hall during one song, but the audience seemed to approve from one end to the other. Bruce bantered with his admirers, employing earnest charm and displaying a fresh blister after the band completely lost their timing during an early interlude: "This is only the second time we've played like this," he said,"What's a few little mistakes? For me it's good to be anywhere."
Bruce stuck with a fretted Gibson EB bass all night while Trower kept plowing alongheroically, given the constant threat of erasure by an overdriven Fender Stratocaster. Each had four amps, but Bruce's Hartke XLs blanketed Trower's Cornells.
Husband displayed plenty of rhythmic prowess, but he too was a victim of the mix. His Pearl set looked ready to come off its stand, even requiring emergency, mid-song assistance a couple times. Sound-wise, clatter was like an overdose of Rice Krispies magnified to the infinite power: too much snap, crackle, and pop. The twin kettles should have been stirred much more than the snare tonight. Husband seemed better suited for his pending date with Allan Holdsworth and Jimmy Johnson, due here in a few weeks.
Still, there were more than enough meaningful morsels served up to call the night a success. This reviewer's informal post-concert poll indicated customers felt they got more than their money's worth and, if further proof were needed, there was plenty of business at the CD table.
As I headed for the autobahn back to Dusseldorf, I watched a happy crowd heading to the nearby train station. And Seven Moons stayed in my head all the way home. Sometimes greatness only has to be good enough.