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An Evening Of Cray

Joe Ehrbar Correspondent

Robert Cray Thursday, May 4, at the Masonic Temple

Robert Cray fans couldn’t have asked for better conditions to see the rhythm and blues legend at the Masonic Temple on Thursday night.

It was a chance for his fans to see him and his three musical cohorts in an intimate environment, a rarity, indeed, when considering the magnificent following Cray commands.

Cray’s concert that night served a couple of other purposes. It was one of a handful of warm-up shows he’s doing in preparation for an upcoming summer tour in Europe. Thursday’s display also gave Cray fans a sneak preview of the songs on his new album “Some Rainy Morning,” released today.

As soon as Cray and his stripped-down, hornless band took the stage, they immediately dove into their performance, surfacing for breath only a couple of times.

Even if it was only an 90-minute-long practice, Cray and crew managed a terrific show full of climactic moments.

Early in the set, the guitarist got the musical shivers with “I Shiver,” a song from his last album “Shame + a Sin.” During the tune, Jim Pugh’s keyboard chimed in a way that it created a shiver effect. Cray sent further chills down the spine with his wiry, hair-raising guitar solo.

Though “I Shiver,” “Forecast” and “Gun” were indeed early highlights, overall, the Robert Cray Band seemed a bit reserved in its playing, lacking spontaneity. Perhaps the blues unit was waiting for some sign of inspiration.

That sign came during the song “Enough of Me,” the concert’s turning point. Here, the band’s performance turned from great to magical.

On “Enough of Me,” Cray stepped out of the confines of the song’s mold and let loose an emotionally interpretive guitar solo.

From that point on, Cray and his band didn’t hold back. They became increasingly improvisational and spontaneous in their performance, two qualities which make the blues live so exciting.

Continually, the veteran singer/ guitarist went off on lengthy tangents. What was impressive was that every time he gracefully found his way back to the song. “Tell the Landlord” was a prime example of how instinctive he can be.

On “Little Boy Big,” Cray called to mind the expressive voice of reggae singer Jimmy Cliff. And, like Cliff, Cray’s passionate vocals soared into the stratosphere.

Even though the new version of the Robert Cray Band appeared without a horn section, the brass wasn’t missed all that much. The band, especially Pugh, stepped up and successfully filled the parts that were once supported by the horns.

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