Widely regarded as one of the greatest blues guitarists of his generation, tonight five-time Grammy Award winner Robert Cray makes a welcome return to the Sage Gateshead.

Over the years Robert Cray has been a regular visit to the North East and the Sage Gateshead in particular. This being his third date in this very room in the last four years, and as a result, Cray has built up an incredible following in the area, who are out in force tonight.

Throughout his illustrious forty plus year career Robert Cray has released in excess of twenty albums as well as having worked with a myriad of blues greats including likes of Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan and John Lee Hooker to name but a few.

Known for his distinctive brand of soulful blues, to keep things fresh on his latest record Robert Cray travelled to Royal Studios along with Grammy Award winning producer Steve Jordan to join forces with Hi-Rhythm, also known as the house band for Hi-Records. This legendary group backed the likes of soul greats Al Green and Ann Peebles on numerous hit records. Last month saw the release of this stunning new long player via Jay-Vee Records, which is simply titled Robert Cray and Hi-Rhythm.

Tonight Robert Cray takes the opportunity to bring that Memphis sound to the Tyneside. Throughout the course of his 90-minute set, the audience at the Sage Gateshead are treated to five tracks from Cray’s latest offering performed by his long-standing four piece band. These include the likes of his take on Sir Mac Rice’s “I Don’t Care”, which Cray recently performed on the Later with Jools Holland television programme, Bill Withers’ “The Same Love That Made Me Laugh” and a beautiful rendition of the very soulful “You Had My Heart”, which is one of only three of Cray’s writing credits on his new release.

We all know that Robert Cray can play, the pristine tone of his Fender Stratocaster, his passionate playing and appreciation of space are well noted. As Miles Davis once said, “It’s not the notes you play, it’s the notes you don’t play“. However, in venues like the Sage Gateshead you really appreciate his unmistakable silky smooth voice and his phenomenal vocal range, this room was built for artists like Robert Cray truly showcase their incredible talent.

Of course, there’s plenty of room for old favourites in Cray’s career-spanning set including the likes of “Right Next Door (Because of Me)” from his seminal album Strong Persuader, his take on the country blues number “Sitting on Top of the World” by the Mississippi Sheiks and the very funky “I Shiver”.

Robert Cray is in high spirits this evening. After an onstage mishap, he quips “the last song we played is on the setlist twice, it didn’t pass quality control – double your pleasure double your fun”, much to the audience’s amusement.

Cray’s distinctive brand of soulful blues is further characterised by his partnership with Dover Weinberg on keys, with the pair effortlessly playing off each other all night long. Richard Cousins (bass) and the band’s new drummer Terence Clarke (drums) lay down a tight groove throughout. This is particularly the case on new tracks like the uptempo “You Must Believe In Yourself”, which also closes out the band’s main set, with a resultant standing ovation from the Tyneside audience and leaves them wanting more.

Cray returns to the stage for a duly deserved three song encore including his new beautifully heartfelt love song “The Way We Are”, the groove-heavy “Forecast Calls For Pain” with it’s rolling rhythm before bringing the night to a close with “Time Makes Two” which he performs with both passion and conviction.

Just like a fine wine, Robert Cray just keeps getting better with age.

Robert Cray
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Event Date: 09-MAY-2017

About The Author

Adam Kennedy is an experienced music photographer based in northeast England. He has been shooting concerts for several years, predominantly with the band Vintage Trouble. In 2013, he was one of their tour photographers, covering the UK and Ireland tour including the headline shows and as opening act for The Who. As an accomplished concert photographer, Adam's work has been featured in print such as, Classic Rock Blues Magazine, Guitarist Magazine, Blues in Britain magazine, broadcast on the MDA Telethon on ABC Television in the US, used in billboard advertising for Renaissance Hotels in the US, and featured online via music blogs such as Uber Rock and Guitar Planet. He is also the official photographer at Newcastle Rock and Blues Club.

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