While Robin Trower’s style has advanced not a whit from the Jimi-come-lately reduction of Hendrix’s aural palette he introduced in 1973, he hasn’t lost the spark that briefly made him a big-drawing guitar hero for a couple of years. His Coach House show Tuesday was typical Trower, with long solos in which melodiousness and dexterous flashes gave way to an incessant fretboard war of tension and release.
Like Albert King’s string-bends and Hendrix’s otherworldly cries, Trower’s extraordinary unity with his instrument yielded pure, emotional moments on the slow-churning “Bridge of Sighs” and “Daydream.”
Unlike those mentors, however, Trower didn’t really direct the flow of his notes, and one solo was barely distinguishable from another in range and effect. His tone--based heavily on the “underwater” timbre of late-period Hendrix--was unvarying, and his solo structures were predictable. While Trower was clearly involved in his performance, with his facial expression shifting from a lemon-sucking pout to a schoolboy smile, it’s doubtful that he ever surprises himself with his playing.
Trower and his capable three-piece band delivered a fair mix of his old arena anthems and newer songs, though familiarity was perhaps the only factor separating them. Even the so-new-it’s-unreleased “I Climb the Rooftops” sounded like 1973 Trower, with a nod to Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.” “Tear It Up,” from the recent “Take What You Need” album, had the curious charm of sounding like a Trowerized attempt at a Fabulous Thunderbirds number.
Trower, who’s blanketing the Southland over the next couple of weeks, finishes up at the Coach House tonight, and plays the Strand on Friday and Saturday.