Robert Cray Band November 13, 2010
A Cerritos Evening with Robert Cray
By Glen Creason
The last time the Robert Cray band visited Cerritos back in 2008 they took some paint off the walls with stirring blues music centered on Cray’s powerhouse guitar. The Robert Cray band is a tight and economical group without weaknesses including the barefoot bass man Richard Cousins, the big drumming platform of Tony Braunagel and the rich organ of Jim Pugh who looks like your accountant but plays in the spirit of Jimmy Smith. Of course, this is the Robert Cray band and it is that young man who raises the bar with his sizzling Stratocaster and understated vocals which croon, rather than shout the blues. However, Cray is the man keeping the genre healthy and the blues fans happy, as was evidenced on Saturday night at the Performing Arts Center.
The big hall is ideal for this kind of guitar centered sound and indeed when Buddy Guy visited just a few years back he made the crowd sweat just watching him play. The venue has proven to be perfect for the genre as in the shows of Buddy Guy, Keb Mo, Gatemouth Brown or even Delbert McClinton but it seems like the artist really needs to attack the music and offer it up raw and at full speed.
Certainly in this show Cray had many a head bobbing and lower lips being bitten as the hungry for blues crowd ate up the stinging solos and amazing fingering-pyrotechnics put on display by this master of the electric guitar. The only really bad thing about the same crowd was the inability of some to recognize that the audience should come to hear the artist play and not to shout inebriated banalities at the stage. All of this can affect a sections concentration on the music streaming from the strat on stage instead of the bellowing buffoon in the seats.
Robert Cray did not seem to be distracted however, and fired up some of his good numbers like “Phone Booth,” “Anytime” and the throbbing “Some Pain Some Shame” which all placed the lyric in a background to the stinging, pungent guitar licks flowing from Cray’s ax. There were other well known tunes such as “No Chicken in the Kitchen” and “Smoking Gun” which got a few folks up in their seats a bit but the energy never boiled over as it did back in 2008. Jim Pugh’s organ was a little bit too much in the background but did surface on “Bad Influence” and “I Can’t Fail” yet the sound strayed a degree to fuzzy in the middle portions which is unusual at this hall. This was a show that took a while to get up to speed for some reason. Robert Cray kept playing and singing without changing course and his vocals were their best on the self-deprecating “Right Next Door” and encores that gave each band member a time to shine, especially the amped up guitar of the leader on “That’s What Keeps Me Rocking” that seemed to finally get the hall in fourth gear.