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REVIEW: ROBBEN FORD – MEMO MUSIC HALL, MELBOURNE

Robben Ford – Memo Music Hall. Wednesday May 25, 2022. Review: Greg Phillips Photos: Jason Rosewarne

Not expecting a support act tonight, it was a joy to see Charlie Bedford walk on stage as support for Robben Ford. We first saw Charlie at our Melbourne Guitar Show, maybe 7 years ago and he has grown so much as a player and in confidence. At only 19 now, it’s going to be exciting to see where Charlie and his brand of blues goes from here.

On a cool Melbourne night, a near packed house gave the five Grammy Award nominated Robben Ford and band a warm welcome, as they loosened into their set with Down The Road I Go. Straight up Robben introduced his talented band, which consisted of Andy Hess (John Scofield, Govt Mule, Black Crowes) on bass, Nashville-based Jovan Quallo on sax and New Orleans-based Doug Belote on drums. “White Rock Beer … 8 Cents” from his current album Pure followed, a rollicking blues tune, which allowed the band to lock into the pocket. “Remember, streaming is for kids,” he told the audience in a subtle suggestion that people might want to ‘buy’ his new album rather than stream it.

Robben’s weapon of choice tonight was his Blonde 1960 Fender Telecaster, which provided him with the strong, chimey chords and crisp, clear, tubular lead notes he needed for the material.

The set list featured an eclectic mix from his back catalogue, with highlights being an extended version of Black Night Is Falling, a moody What I Haven’t Done from 2019’s Purple House, the quirky ’Go’ from Pure, and a beautiful new track Sentimental Mode, from his yet to be released Common Ground project (release scheduled for June), which features  Keith Carlock on drums, Bill Evans on sax, and The Rolling Stones’ Darryl Jones on bass, all who have worked with Miles Davis, which is their common ground the project is name after! As Robben told us in our pre-tour interview, he’s currently enjoying playing with just bass, drums and sax, a format which allows the band to stretch out, exploring the space otherwise filled by keyboards.

Like the title of his current album Pure, Robben’s playing is just that. He thinks about every note and never wastes one, each lick having a purpose and adding a little something to the bigger picture. When he pauses, the band chip in, adding their own unique spin to the moment. Someone’s always contributing an element of interest.  The lead guitar and sax interplay was engrossing. The thoughtful spaces in between the notes were as important as the licks in creating Ford’s impressive set tonight. Robben Ford is a master guitarist, an explorer who never stops learning, one who constantly delivers quality groove, melody and dynamics, and the discerning Memo Music Hall audience appreciated every minute of it. He’s back there tonight but don’t count on any tickets being available. Robben Ford and band then head to Sydney and Adelaide.

 

Charlie Bedford