rockford illinois entertainment guide
Date: 09/09/2005
Robert Cray Expresses Himself to the On The Waterfront Crowd
by Gary Hill

If you had to sum up Robert Cray's performance at the 2005 On The Waterfront Festival it would be "expressive". Fortunately I have more than one word to do it in, though. Cray and his band brought their show to the Left Bank stage on Saturday September 3rd, and it was an awesome one. Seldom have I seen a band perform better than they did live.

While Cray and his outfit are billed as "blues", certainly their music is not content to sit neatly within that category. It touches on R & B, soul and rock, but always maintains a certain consistency that is Cray. The true power of the music can only be experienced in a live performance, though. While many artists seem to do much better in the confines of a studio, Cray's sound expands and intensifies in the live arena. While it gains much for the in person performance, it really loses nothing - and that is impressive!

Cray himself accounts for much of the power of this band's live show. His voice, incredibly rich and often high pitched on album, is even more potent in concert. I had figured that much of his vocal charm would be lost outside of the studio setting, but he proves that he actually keeps it a bit restrained on recordings, preferring to bring out the passion and intensity in his shows instead. His guitar playing is top notch, and he's one of a dying breed who actually sing (away from the mike) their solos to themselves while they are taking them. That shows a passion and love for the music that is often not found these days. The entire arrangement and performance is far more intense live than in the studio - again something not often found - while losing none of the sparkling clarity and tone.

The band made their way through a series of songs both old and new, well known and a bit more obscure to put in a performance that was without question one of the best of the whole festival. If you were there you were given a major treat. If you weren't, by all means get out to see this band play - they are among the best in their field. You will definitely not be disappointed.

Photos by Eric Meli

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