POP MUSIC REVIEW : Laying Jimi’s Legacy on With a Trower

In a business where overexposure can be a career killer, ‘70s guitar hero Robin Trower goes blithely on, playing a circuit of Southland clubs with such frequency that he would scarcely seem more familiar if he was performing door to door.

Yet Trower never fails to draw a crowd, and his first of three nights at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano on Tuesday provided some justification for his fans’ loyalty. (He also performs Friday and Saturday at the Strand in Redondo Beach, Monday at Bogart’s in Long Beach, March 25 at the Ventura Theatre and March 27 at the Green Door in Montclair.)

While the one-time Procol Harum guitarist’s style has advanced not a whit from when he introduced his Jimi-come-lately reduction of Hendrix’s aural palette in 1973, neither has he lost the spark that briefly made him a stadium attraction then.

The Coach House show was typical Trower, with long solo spots in which melodic line or dexterous flashes gave way to an incessant fret-board war of tension and release. Like Albert King’s string bends or Hendrix’s other-worldly cries on “Band of Gypsys,” Trower’s extraordinary unity with his instrument yielded pure, emotional moments on the slow-churning “Bridge of Sighs” and “Daydream.”


The trouble is, unlike his mentors, he left the faucet running, scarcely directing the flow of his notes, so that one solo was barely distinguishable from another in range or effect. More than his unvarying guitar tone, based heavily on the “underwater” timbre of late-period Hendrix, there was nothing in his solo structures that was not predictable. While Trower was unmistakably involved in his performance--with his facial expression exploding from a lemon-sucking pout to a schoolboy smile, depending on which point of tension or release he was at in any second--one doubts that he ever surprises himself with his playing.

Trower was backed by a capable three-piece band that included James Dewar sound-alike vocalist Davey Pattison. They delivered a fair mix of his old arena anthems and newer songs, though familiarity was perhaps the only factor separating them. Even the still-to-be-released “I Climb the Rooftops” sounded like 1973-era Trower, also owing a nod to Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.”

“Tear It Up,” from the recent “Take What You Need” album, did have the curious charm of sounding like a Trowerized venture into Fabulous Thunderbirds territory.