Rich Robinson/Dave O'Grady/Ulysses - Bristol, The Fleece - 15th February 2012 Print
Written by Russ P   
Wednesday, 29 February 2012 05:00

Seven years ago Johnny H and myself were stood in this exact same venue on this exact same spot to see this exact same man - Rich Robinson. But is this man really the same man that I saw all those years ago or has he moved on? My guess is that Rich has moved on. And so has his popularity, as I can't remember The Fleece being as full as this seven years ago. It looks like a sold out show to me.

 

Ulysses_04If you thought that tonight was going to have more than a tinge of '70s-itis about it you'd be right. Luke Smyth the frontman of support band Ulysses is just like Brad Delp from around 1976. He doesn't seem very happy though; letting us all know that his band hasn't had a soundcheck. Bad mood or not it doesn't matter as Ulysses carry on regardless while the sound sorts itself out during the first couple of numbers revealing music that is fun, energetic and rocking.

 

The singer's stoicism belies the feel good nature of the band's material, which is effervescent and taps into a flamboyant kind of early 70s music that is reminiscent of T. Rex, Wizzard and Hello. Great band. Great songs. Great drummer. Catch them if you can.

 

After the raucous melodies of Ulysses things get quieter and a bit more intimate with Dublin born troubadour Dave O'Grady. I wish there was another word instead of troubadour but that about nails O'Grady who has a powerful but warm gravelly voice that puts one in mind of Ray LaMontagne and Thomas Dybdahl.

 

Dave_OGrady_27Just a man and his acoustic guitar, O'Grady stands alone bathed in red light as he begins with the slide guitar of 'Bones' - a fiery folk song awash with the tradition of the protest song. It can't be easy performing stripped down acoustic numbers over the hubbub of tonight's audience but O'Grady is unfazed and delivers what he's here to do, to those appreciative enough to listen. In amongst some more tracks from his 'Dirty Little Secret' EP - 'I (Don't Want To) Love You' and the title track - he throws in a couple of songs that everyone knows. 'With A Little Help From My Friends' sees O'Grady getting widespread audience participation whilst his slowed up version of 'Billie Jean' has people scratching their heads as to why this song seems so familiar - is it Damien Rice or Michael Jackson?

 

And so, after two very good support acts Rich Robinson is applauded onto the stage accompanied by his Crooked Sun band. Rich's stoic manner is underpinned by some deadpan humour as he shares a few words with the audience pointing out that there'd been a printing error on some of the concert posters promising an evening of Black Crowes songs. That's not happening tonight and Rich offers a refund to anyone who would like to leave. I don't seriously believe that anyone is labouring under that misapprehension. Everyone here knows what they are getting.

 

Rich_Robinson_56And what we get here tonight is what some Black Crowes fans have a hard time with - extensive and extended jamming. But this isn't The Black Crowes and Rich doesn't need to cram in the hits of an extensive back catalogue. In fact tonight's set is centered around his latest album 'Through A Crooked Sun' with nearly a third devoted to covers. Here's the trick...the covers aren't thrown in as crowd pleasers - they're integral to the set. The funk rock of War's 'War Drums' and the jazz rock fusion of 'Laila, Part 2' by the little known German rock band Agitation Free are keystones in the set and, perhaps oddly, paint a truer picture of Rich and Crooked Sun than the songs on their new album.

 

That's not to say that the band could forgo their own material entirely but the vibe captured throughout the gig is very much authentic 70s rock the like of which you'd be hard pressed to hear anywhere these days. It's that free and easy vibe of Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac, Cream, Santana even.

 

King of tone that he is, Rich is swapping his guitar out practically on a per song basis: a Fender Strat for a Gibson SG for a 335 for a shimmering Gretsch Country Gentleman and back to his trusty Telecaster. He transitions through a myriad of styles - bottleneck, plectrum and fingerpicking in that distinctive style of his. Adding to the sound tonight are Rich's anchormen Brian Allen on bass and Joe Magistro on drums while his wingman is the incredible Steve Molitz comping away on keyboards.

 

Rich_Robinson_30'Follow You Forever' is the most transformed song from the new album to on stage tonight. On record it's gently, lulling and trippy. Joe Magistro's playing is laid back but crushing at the same time as the band dig in deep and make this one of the heaviest and most intense experiences of the night.

 

'Standing On The Surface Of The Sun' sees Rich uncharacteristically with Strat in hand evoking a middle ground between Zeppelin and Floyd through the song's stirring groove. 'Falling Again' and 'Bye Bye Baby' give way to the plaintive and poppy 'I Don't Hear The Sound Of You' and I'm curious as to how they will make the cross-fade into the outtro and am aptly impressed when the band just bang straight into this about face change of feel without batting an eyelid between them.

 

'Gone Away' is the set closer but here at The Fleece Rich acknowledges that there's little point in leaving the stage and so continues on with his "Two for Tuesday" pair of Neil Young encore numbers playfully ignoring that it is in fact Wednesday. 'Down By The River' in its full extended version has Rich hanging off his Bigsby vibrato bar in an effort to emulate Young's trademark sound while 'Cinnamon Girl' succinctly brings the evening to a close. Rich and Crooked Sun have played for close to two hours - an epic set that you'd normally expect at an arena gig. All in all this makes for one of the most complete line ups that I've seen in The Fleece.

 

Photo Kudos Russ P www.russellprothero.co.uk

 

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