DPAS LIVE REVIEW
Roth & The Legends Of Rock
Compared to the Southend show I'd attended, the Corn Exchange at Cambridge was positively heaving. With the seating taken out downstairs (unlike the Westcliffe) it made for a far noisier and more boisterous audience.
Frank Marino ripped into his set with customary zeal, keeping chat to a minimum and guitar wizardry to a maximum, the high standard he maintained for his allotted time (each set was around 40 minutes) clearly illustrated the benefit of 30 years touring experience. In truth, he is far too good to be an opening act. However, his early appearance laid a foundation that ensured all who followed had to be on their mettle. It was a very shrewd move on Uli's part to bring Marino back to the UK for the first time in 19 years. I only hope we don't have to wait that long to see this great guitarist again.
The first variation from the previous gig I'd witnessed came at the end of Uli Jon Roth's superb set. He dispensed with his usual closing number and his band filed off stage. "Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome a fantastic local musician" and on strode Don Airey. The two of them launched into a wonderfully melodic jam that was technically demanding yet always accessible and entertaining. It was clear the time they had spent performing together had cemented a mutual understanding, which in turn provided a solid platform for their seemingly limitless imaginations, you were left thinking that Uli's loss was definitely Purple's gain, and as unexpected bonuses go, this was a big one !
Glenn Hughes was up next and received an overwhelmingly enthusiastic reception. Up to this point the show had run very smoothly and I suppose that It was too much to expect it would carry on that way. It became clear just moments into his opener, Stormbringer, that something had gone wrong with the sound system, which up to this point had been flawless; now it was distorted and leaden sounding. Two minutes into Mistreated it packed up completely and the hall was plunged into an eerie silence. Unperturbed, Hughes led the crowd in a singalongapurple until electrical matters were restored. This could have been a tricky moment for someone with less experience, but Hughes handled the situation admirably. Getting Tighter and You Keep On Moving were performed as a three-piece, the keyboards having now succumbed to the gremlins, and I wondered if this was the first time since his Trapeze days he'd played with just a guitar and drums behind him? With parity restored for the closing number, Burn, Glenn Hughes overcame what could have been a disaster and once again turned in a compelling and energetic performance.
With his voice still intact, and those wonderful contrapuntal bass lines pummeling the walls, Jack Bruce proved he is still a class act. His stage movements and general demenour belie his age. With much humour, and plenty of eye contact, he commanded the stage with his presence . It was great to hear all those old Cream numbers delivered with such fire and passion. A lot of this was due to Uli Jon Roth wisely sticking to Clapton's original studio solos and keeping the improvisation to a minimum. Such was Jack's bonhomie he actually extended his set with a shivering version of White Room, which brought this part of the show to a very satisfying and impressive conclusion.
Whilst waiting for Frank Marino's pedal-board to be carried back onto the stage (believe me, it resembles a small city as seen from the air !) Mr. Roth treated us to a spine-tingling rendition of Mozart's Rondo Alla Turca. After this impromptu interlude Frank Marino returned to deliver an incendiary Voodoo Chile Slight Return, then he was then joined by Uli Jon Roth and Don Airey for a mesmerising All Along The Watchtower. The three encores of Eleanor Rigby, I Feel Free and Whiter Shade Of Pale ended the evening in resounding style.
In these times of austerity, these short-set package tours may be the only way some artists can tour the UK successfully. It certainly provided a unique opportunity to see some wonderful musicians interacting and having fun on stage.
review: Ian Ellis