How good it feels to be watching live music again. A statement echoed by Kathryn Pepper from tonight’s supporting artist, Zervas and Pepper. More about them later. The blues is an animal all of its own. Much like life, it changes, but it stays the same. I’ve enjoyed Robert Cray’s music since he came to prominence in the early ’80s. Since then he’s produced a string of fine albums, whilst, perhaps wisely, never steering off the road.
Tonight’s offering is actually the UK tour opener. His first appearance on our fair isle for four years. There aren’t many better-sounding venues in the UK than Leicester’s famous De Montfort Hall. So where better to start? Cray’s band consists of himself accompanied by keyboards, bass and drums. The first thing I notice is that he is only utilising a third of the venue’s big stage. So the band huddle together at the back, two or three metres from the stage front like they’re playing in your dining room. Visually it works well.
We’re then treated to 90 minutes of Cray’s extensive catalogue, including selections from the latest offering That’s What I Heard. What is highly noticeable about Cray is that he has lost none of his great singing voice or talent for playing. In fact, live, he’s very close to the studio cuts, albeit with extra jams and elongated wind-downs.
The backing band are incredibly tight. There’s no fuss, just the main course, with the occasional quickfire quip. I’m not sure why it made me laugh so much, but a quick “bless you” from Cray after an audience member sneezed impressed this writer. Maybe I was just happy to be back?
It was nice to witness a couple of real old gems like ‘Right Next Door’ and ‘Phone Booth’ as I’ve never seen Cray live before. Younger readers may wish to ask their parents what a phone booth is…
Tonight’s support artists, Zervas and Pepper provided a pleasant appetiser. They have a sixth album planned, so they have quite a depth of songs to choose from. Great material it is too. The nucleus is a male/female duo from Barry Island (No! Not that one).
They often play with a full folk-rock band. On this tour, we have Paul Zervas and the aforementioned Kathryn Pepper, joined tonight by an accompanying guitarist. So tonight we get the laid back, late sixties Laurel Canyon vibe. Paul pointed out how honoured they were to be playing at a venue that has hosted The Beatles, Ella Fitzgerald and Bob Dylan amongst many hundreds more. However, he forgot to mention the Noddy Christmas play which I vividly remember taking my daughter to…
Zervas and Pepper have worked with some real luminaries and this shows in many of their well-woven songs. They were very well received and they can now join that list of said names. There are plenty of dates still left on this tour and it’s well worth catching if you can.
UK Tour Dates:
5th: O2 City Hall – Newcastle upon Tyne
7th: The Queen’s Hall – Edinburgh
8th: Buxton Opera House – Buxton
10th: The Anvil – Basingstoke
11th: Cadogan Hall – London
12th: Cadogan Hall – London
14th: De La Warr Pavillion – Bexhill On Sea
15th: Portsmouth Guildhall – Portsmouth
16th: New Theatre Oxford – Oxford
18th: Town Hall – Birmingham
19th: Cambridge Corn Exchange – Cambridge
20th: St. David’s Hall – Cardiff
For more information and tickets, see HERE.