Review and Photos By Stephen Wilt
There are no gimmicks, no flare, and no wild sets. Instead, a five-time Grammy award winner backed with a well-seasoned band ready to give their heart and soul to all willing to hear. The Robert Cray band made a rare stop in Buffalo NY, October 1, 2019, performing in Asbury Hall at Babeville. A stormy 80-degree day, and perhaps the last real day of summer left the perfect atmosphere for the blues as Cray awaited a sold-out audience.
Buffalo native and blues virtuoso Tommy Z opened the show with astonishing renditions of blues classics mixed in with quite a few originals. Radio host of WBFO 88.7, his knowledge of B-side blues and its beginnings is immense and presents itself throughout his entire show. Engaging the crowd is second nature for the Tommy Z band, throwing the guitar behind his head and walking around the crowd without missing a note. After a brief introduction of the band, and an invite to meet him at the merch stand, the stage was made clear for The Robert Cray Band.
Greeted by a roaring cheer, Buffalo welcomed Cray open heartily for the first time in 11 years. Without a word the band went straight into the early ‘80s classic, “Phone Booth.” Announcing, “Thank you, see you next time,” after its completion. This was all Cray needed to crack a smile from everyone in his presence. “Now that would be pretty bad, wouldn’t it,” Cray continued “we’d be chased out of Buffalo!”
There are few only a handful of artists that can captivate an entire audience with a single note, but Cray seems to be able to time and time again. Third on the list was a Bill Withers classic off Crays newest release, Robert Cray and Hi Rhythm, that set the perfect mood for the remainder of the show. The chemistry on stage is remarkable between long-time friends as Cray passes the torch around to showcase their talents.
Considered the boss of the blues, their wall of sound is comprised of original member and bassist Richard Cousins, long-time friend, and accomplished keyboardist Dover Weinberg, and the remarkable Terence Clark on drums. Cray, standing tall in a plain button-up shirt, black leather shoes and custom Stratocaster created a presence that only he can achieve.
“Turn down your radio, turn down your radio,” cray sang whispering as his wireless guitar rig picked up a nearby radio station. As if it was almost part of the act the band began to play along with the signal until turning up once again and transitioning into “Right Next Door.”
Ending with a Cray standard “Time Makes Two,” it was able to showcase the vitality of his voice and playing ability. The room remained eerily silent as Cray backed away from the mic and yelled the lyrics to the crowd until a single voice of the crowd shouting “I LOVE YOU ROBERT” leading an accompaniment of chants and cheering.
Perhaps the last great bluesman, The Robert Cray Band continues to tour across the States heading to Ithaca, NY October 11, 2019. His latest album, Robert Cray and Hi Rhythm, can be purchased on his site www.robertcray.com as well as local record shops and online streaming sites. Tickets to Ithaca October 11, are available on www.eventbright.com as well as www.stateofithaca.org. More information on Buffalo greats, The Tommy Z Band, can be found on www.tommyzband.com.
Robert Cray Band, Buffalo NY, October 1, 2019
- Phone Booth
- Two Steps From The End
- The Same Love
- The Things You Do To Me
- Bad Influence
- Won’t Be Comin Home
- You Had My Heart
- Bouncin Back
- Where Do I Go From Here
- You Move Me
- I’m Done Crying
- Right Next Door
- You Must Believe in Yourself
- Time Makes Two