The first and last time I saw Tom Robinson play live was back in 1977, until now at least. I had a great interest in the Tom Robinson Band back in the late 70s as I spent a few years at Senior School sitting next to original TRB drummer Brian ‘Dolphin’ Taylor. That original TRB line up of Tom Robinson, Dolphin Taylor, Mark Ambler and Danny Kustow was a hard-hitting, powerful proposition that took the audience with them on their incendiary journey. So now that Tom has put together another TRB to play the whole of the exquisitely stunning and still relevant ‘Power In The Darkness’ album on its 40th anniversary I was very thrilled by the thought of seeing him live again after all those years. Did the gig live up to my very high expectations? Well you will have to keep reading to find that out.
Before I give you my thoughts on the current TRB let me tell you about the marvellous support act, Lee Forsyth Griffiths. Lee has just released his third solo album and is also a longstanding member of Tom Robinson’s main band. Unusually in my experience he was introduced by Tom Robinson and Tom stayed in the audience to watch the whole of Lee’s set. Mr Griffith’s songs are beautifully crafted slices of life that ooze passion and emotion. He sings like he really means every word and I am sure that he does. Lee’s sense of humour is sharp and very funny too, I loved the comments about Oasis (Lee also has a song called “Married With Children”) and Kanye West. He had a very strong fan base in the audience with one bloke even stepping in when Lee appeared to briefly forget a lyric. I now have a signed copy of his new album and I will definitely be checking out his earlier stuff as well. You should do the same, you will not be disappointed.
Now it was time for the main event at the fabulous York venue that is the Crescent; the Tom Robinson Band playing the whole of the ‘Power In The Darkness’ album along with some other TRB hits from 1977/ 1978. Album and set opener “Up Against The Wall” remains a phenomenally strong tour de force with a lyric that works as well today as it did 40 years ago. In fact the whole album still sounds fresh, especially played live. The current TRB is every bit as good as the original band and features Jim Simmons an exceedingly gifted keyboard maestro, lead guitar virtuoso Adam Phillips who has also played in Richard Ashcroft’s band, powerhouse drummer Andy Treacey from Faithless and obviously Tom himself on bass guitar. Tom gave us a story about the one track from the album that has never been played live before this tour; track two, side two (well it was originally a proper LP record), “Man You Never Saw”. Apparently that song took two weeks to record, largely because the bass part was very challenging, well it is clear that Tom has mastered it now.
“Grey Cortina” and “Too Good To Be True” kept the crowd fired up and singing along. Tom’s performance belies his age, although maybe he takes a few more moments between songs than he used to, but hell we are all 40 years older now, right? “Long Hot Summer” and the “Winter Of ‘79” were early peaks in a mountainous display from a singer and a band on top of their game and clearly enjoying themselves enormously. Tom updated some of the lyrics to a couple of songs with more pertinent and relevant names, Rees Mogg (the despicable Tory arse) featured in one to bring it up to date. As an introduction to “Better Decide Which Side You’re On” Tom reminded us of part of the wording on the back of the original LP sleeve; “I got no illusions about the political left any more than the right: just a shrewd idea which of the two side’s gonna stomp on us first”. This remains a part of my world view and I suppose looking back it was bands like TRB and the Clash that sparked my interest in politics and made me much more of a political animal. The title track of the album was also the last track on side two and it still holds a forceful message about human rights and how extremists seek to take that away. As protest songs go this has to be among the best.
Tom broke a bass string and while Lee Forsyth Griffiths went searching for a replacement we were treated to a magnificent and rousing version of “Martin” which certainly gave the best crowd participation of the whole evening up to that point. “Martin” is such a great story song and retains a sense of poignancy and humour. After “Martin” the crowd singing just continued to grow with loud and stirring stomps through “Don’t Take No For An Answer” and “Glad To Be Gay”. A couple of times during the evening requests for Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” which were strongly rejected by many in the crowd. Personally I would not have minded hearing it, but it certainly did not detract from what was an amazing show. Mr Robinson asked if we would mind if the band didn’t leave the stage and come back for an encore and just roll straight into the encore. Most of the crowd, including myself were of the generation that clearly understands the needs of us older folk. I bet you can’t guess what the encore was can you? Tom introduced it as “a medley of my greatest hit”. It was of course the classic “2-4-6-8 Motorway” which became a medley of sorts with brief diversions into Sly and the Family Stone’s “Dance To The Music” among others. This was without doubt an incredible gig which made me reminisce greatly about my lost youth, but in a very good way. I even got the opportunity to have a very brief conversation with Tom and I apologised for leaving such a long gap between seeing him live; he told me that it was better late than never! I don’t plan to leave it so long again, largely because if I did I would be 98 and Tom would be over 100. There are still a few shows left on this tour (take a look below) and I urge you to get yourself a ticket, in fact I won’t take no for an answer! Sadly the 100 Club shows in London appear to be unsurprisingly all sold out.
Friday 20 October 2017 – The Leadmill, Sheffield, UK
Saturday 21 October 2017 – HOME, Manchester, UK
Tuesday 24 October 2017 – 100 Club, London, UK
Wednesday 25 October 2017 – 100 Club, London, UK
Thursday 26 October 2017 – 100 Club, London, UK
Saturday 28 October 2017 – Riverside, Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK
Sunday 29 October 2017 – King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow, UK
Friday 08 December 2017 – Nell’s Jazz & Blues Club, London, UK
If you have been to any dates on this tour or are planning to I would love to hear what you thought of the show.