Robert Cray makes a welcome return to the Sage Gateshead in support of his new live album 4 Nights of 40 Years Live.
Opening the show was Shawn Jones who has been dubbed as being half way between Hank Williams and Hendrix. Shawn is a native of Southern California and was once lead guitarist for the legendary Waylon Jennings. Jones delivered a superb, short set of all original blues numbers like “Temptation” and “Savin’ The Best For Last” from his album All In Good Time and received a great reception from the Geordie crowd.
However, Shawn has not just been picking up new fans on this tour, he also managed to acquire a vintage left-handed 1967 Kent for the bargain price of £150 much to his pleasing. Jones closed his set with the slide-tastic “Bottom of the Bottle” from his forthcoming new album.
It’s been just over a year since Robert Cray‘s last visit to the venue, he makes fun of the fact that the band had just been hiding backstage in his dressing room all this time. The Sage Gateshead, sitting proudly on the banks of the River Tyne is one of the most prestigious concert halls in the UK, with acoustics that are second to none.
We all know Cray can play, the pristine tone of his Fender Stratocaster, his passionate playing and appreciation of space are well noted. However, in venues like the Sage Gateshead you really appreciate his silky smooth vocals and his phenomenal range, this venue was built for artists like Robert Cray. He sings about subjects like love and heartbreak that everyone can relate to, but when he sings you feel it, you believe him, he sinks his heart and soul into his performance.
Cray’s distinctive brand of soulful blues is further characterized by his partnership with Dover Weinberg on keys who is the perfect foil to his phenomenal playing. The rhythm section of Richard Cousins (bass) and Les Falconer (drums) deliver a tight groove throughout.
Robert Cray’s career spanning set celebrates his 40 years in the business with old favorites like “I Shiver” and “Where Do I Go From Here” sitting side by side with the likes of “Blues Get Off My Shoulder” which opened the show, “Fix This” and the beautiful “Deep In My Soul” from his last two studio albums.
During “Right Next Door (because of me)” Cray brings the volume down during his solo to the point where you could hear a pin drop in the room, the crowd are transfixed yet respectful. The band brought their main set to a close with an up-tempo version of “You Move Me” from Cray’s last studio album In My Soul, leaving the stage to a standing ovation.
The band return to the stage to close out the evening with funky number “Phone Booth” from their 1983 album Bad Influence and their homage to Booker T and the MG’s with “Hip Tight Onions” during which Cousins and Cray were dancing in unison, they appeared to be enjoying themselves almost as much as the audience. The night was brought to a close with a heartfelt rendition of “Two Takes Two”, before the band received a second standing ovation.
It doesn’t get much better than this. Here’s to many more years to come from Robert Cray.