Robin Trower / Iconic Guitarist Shines At Islington Assembly Hall

Never someone to choose flashy histrionics over subtle playing, Robin Trower never rose to the ranks of guitar hero quite in the same way his counterparts Page, Beck and Clapton did. Whilst the three of them made their initial marks with The Yardbirds, the Catford-born Trower first came to attention as a six-stringer with Procol Harum, appearing on their self-titled debut, and his career took off from then.

Robin Trower – Connolly Hayes

Islington Assembly Hall – 28 May 2024

Words: Paul Monkhouse

Photography: Robert Sutton

It was his solo career that saw Robin Trower truly come into his own and with 1974’s Bridge Of Sighs album his talent with a Stratocaster was fully realised and appreciated.

Robin Trower - Islington Assembly Hall - 28 May 2024
Robin Trower – Islington Assembly Hall – 28 May 2024. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

On the road to celebrating a half-century since the iconic long player was released, he finds himself at a packed Assembly Hall in front of a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd who have wedged themselves in the place to witness sonic magic.

Robin Trower - Islington Assembly Hall - 28 May 2024
Robin Trower – Islington Assembly Hall – 28 May 2024. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

Thoughts about a frustratingly long changeover between bands are immediately forgotten when the guitarist walks on stage, and the taut trio breaks into the opening number, The Razor’s Edge, vocalist/bass player Richard Watts and drummer Chris Taggart easing into the bluesy groove.

The funky wah wah groove of Too Rolling Stoned follows and a tightly packed audience starts frugging at its intoxicating rhythms, the smiling Trower enjoying the ride as much as anyone else there.

Robin Trower - Islington Assembly Hall - 28 May 2024
Robin Trower – Islington Assembly Hall – 28 May 2024. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

The early Hendrix comparisons were often a double-edged sword as whilst there’s definitely an influence there, and which guitarist at the time wasn’t challenged and thrilled by the otherworldly American, Trower has very much his own unique touch and feel.

Propulsive tracks like the riotous Day Of The Eagle and Rise Up Like The Sun may have fire in their veins, but it’s where he makes his guitar sing, purr and moan the blues on Daydream and closer Birdsong that he scores the most powerfully, his craft shone a light on to delirious effect.

Robin Trower - Islington Assembly Hall - 28 May 2024
Robin Trower – Islington Assembly Hall – 28 May 2024. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

Watts displays fine vocals, the playing of his and that of Taggart the perfect bedrock for Trower to exercise his muse, but the trio never eschews the central melodies of the songs to sacrifice them at the altar of egotistical flash.

Whilst the solos are both often and lengthy, the soulfulness is the thing that shines here, the legendary player displaying a restraint that so many of the more contemporary axemen replace with some desperate need to play as many notes as possible in any given number.

Robin Trower - Islington Assembly Hall - 28 May 2024
Robin Trower – Islington Assembly Hall – 28 May 2024. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

This is a night to absorb everything, the faithful and novices coming together to join the journey into kaleidoscopic soundscapes and with the centrepiece of a phenomenal, heavy and woozy Bridge Of Sighs played to dynamic effect, it would be churlish to have asked for anything more.

Many may have made their name with a guitar clutched in their hand but there’s only one Robin Trower and for everyone who poured out of the Assembly Hall that night, spending time in his presence had been a jawdropping experience. 

Connolly Hayes

Earlier in the evening, Connolly Hayes had proved a perfect warm-up band, the quintet stripped back to just a trio but equally as raw. With a perfect blend of voices, this dripped a bluesy soulfulness and the funky take on the classic Love The One You’re With was a brave opener.

Connolly Hayes - Islington Assembly Hall - 28 May 2024
Connolly Hayes – Islington Assembly Hall – 28 May 2024. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

The rest of the set was cherry-picked from their forthcoming debut album as the twin vocals of Jess Hayes and Frankie Connolly swooped, soared and dug deep.

Connolly Hayes - Islington Assembly Hall - 28 May 2024
Connolly Hayes – Islington Assembly Hall – 28 May 2024. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

A magnetic yet happily easy going performance, the outfit have marked themselves as names to watch and with a forthcoming launch show at The 100 Club beckoning, they have the class and quality to go the distance.

Connolly Hayes - Islington Assembly Hall - 28 May 2024
Connolly Hayes – Islington Assembly Hall – 28 May 2024. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk
Connolly Hayes - Islington Assembly Hall - 28 May 2024
Connolly Hayes – Islington Assembly Hall – 28 May 2024. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk
Connolly Hayes - Islington Assembly Hall - 28 May 2024
Connolly Hayes – Islington Assembly Hall – 28 May 2024. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk
Connolly Hayes - Islington Assembly Hall - 28 May 2024
Connolly Hayes – Islington Assembly Hall – 28 May 2024. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

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