Robert Cray in Beverly Hills
Robert Cray Band
Beverly Hills, CA
Do they get the blues in Beverly Hills?What may be hard for the rest of the world to imagine, in a town typecast for Rodeo Drive opulence, sprawling gated estates, and lunching power-brokers negotiating deals of global motion picture domination, was indeed happening on Wilshire Boulevard.Fortunately, there, too was the cure, in a sweet and soulful dose of the Robert Cray Band at the glorious and historic Saban Theatre.
Taking the stage of the art-deco masterwork just inside the city limits was the 61-year-old masterwork himself, celebrating his 40th year as a musician, and with his five-piece ensemble executing a performance as impeccably sharp as their attire.In killer suits, sans jacket for drummer Les Falconer and shoes for barefooted bassist Richard Cousins, the quartet was augmented for its opening three by ‘The Cats’ horn section of saxman Trevor Lawrence and trumpeter Steve Madaio, both of whom appeared on this year’s In My Soul.Chopping at his trademark Strat, Cray coaxed his snaking lines on show-starter “I Shiver,” bending and moaning in step with each note, then rapidly firing on the lowdown, last call blues “I’ll Always Remember You,” from 2012’s Nothin But Love.
An oft-used Cray preamble of “funky” preceded “I Guess I’ll Never Know,” true to its introduction, before the Cats departed and the multiple Grammy-winner spun back the clock on “On The Road Down,” and even further back on the title track from 1985’s Bad Influence. The slow-flow lava of Dover Weinberg’s organ seized as it scorched on “Two Steps From the End,” before Cray carved up “Won’t Be Coming Home.”Joining as a guest, producer and percussionist Steve Jordan, a man for whom drums is as much a verb as it is noun, doubled up on a side-stage kit with Falconer for a thumping and thundering “These Things,” yielding to the quartet for Cray’s Strong Persuader hit “Right Next Door (Because of Me),” the context of infidelity Cray claims was inspired by a denying Cousins, and the band’s hippy origins on “What Would You Say,” evidence he pointed to in the form of Cousins’ dreads and naked feet.The Cats and Jordan reconvened with the four for a stage-swelling “Forecast Calls For Pain,” and another in an evening loaded with Cray solos that, with surgical precision, cut to the core of the core. The instrumental “Hip Tight Onions,” and “Love Gone to Waste” from the Jordan-produced Take Your Shoes Off, tightened up the grooves as encores until the lingering “Deep In My Soul” dropped the curtain on the evening.
As incongruous as the blues in these high-rent heights may seem, it’s as deserving a place for the Robert Cray Band as any.Cray’s matchless style is dignified and dirty, beguiling and sure, leaving behind the flash for those who really need it.In other words, as perfect a fit for Beverly Hills as Beale Street.