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Live Review: The Robert Cray Band in London

One-time saviour of blues is now the chairman of the board.

If you’re expecting an evening of frantic facial expressions and pyrotechnics, then you’re clearly in the wrong place. The lights go down. Robert Cray and his band stroll on stage and plug their instruments in. A quick tune-up and they’re off, straight into David Porter and Isaac Hayes’ standard, Your Good Thing Is About To End.

It’s typical of Cray’s understated approach, but there’s nothing phoned in about his performance. Many decades have passed since he was the next big thing, but Cray is still giving it his all; playing with the sort of passion that puts many of the current crop of bright young things to shame. Every lick on the guitar is perfectly executed and Cray squeezes every last ounce of emotion out of a series of impeccably timed solos. There’s no doubting the power of his voice, either. If, God forbid, he ever decides to hang up the guitar and just sing, we’d still be in for a great night.

Very few artists can take you back to the golden days of Al Green and Otis Redding, but Cray is one of them, as he proves on his Memphis soul tribute, _The Things You _Do To Me. And his well-travelled band are clearly having a blast, shifting from straight rhythm and blues to Booker T funk, and back again. If this is the zillionth time they play Bad Influence, it certainly doesn’t show. It still sounds as fresh as it did when it was first released in 1986.

The evening ends as it starts, with a ballad - Time Makes Two - but no one is ‘He squeezes every last ounce of emotion out of a series of impeccably timed solos.’ complaining. Cray smashes it out of the park and then quietly walks off the stage to thunderous applause. If only everything in life was as reliable as a Robert Cray gig.