Gray Zones: The Blues Brings Joy to Warren’s Robins Theater | News, Sports, Jobs
It has never been so nice to have the blues.
Friday night I sat inside the Robins Theater and listened to Louisiana bluesman Tab Benoit and his rhythm section moan for a full two hours.
Apart from a few scattered events – seeing the Sunshine Riders while covering the opening of the Austintown Park concerts last summer, hearing a few songs from Labra Brothers on Record Store Day at Record Connection, a drive-through concert in a church parking lot by JD Eicher – this was the first real gig I had seen since March 8, 2020, when Blue Oyster Cult played the Robins.
For someone who has been going to concerts since 1978, this was by far the longest musical drought of my adult life.
Maybe this drought colored my judgment, but Benoit was a great way to get back into the deep end.
He’s not one of those players with a rack of guitars, each with their own tuning, and a massive array of effects pedals. Instead, he’s just a man and his well-worn Fender Telecaster Thinline, and the only special effects are his eight fingers and two thumbs. And they are very special.
Bassist Corey Duplechin and drummer Terence Higgins provided a rock solid foundation on a set that mixed originals, blues favorites and a few memorable covers – a rendition of Hank Williams. “On the Bayou” which was enhanced by the drawling Louisiana of Benoit and a version of that of Buffalo Springfield “For what it’s worth” that turned it into a quivering blues track.
Benoit called him, “Just three guys jamming in a nice building for nice people”, but it was so much more.
The whole evening seemed to me… pretty normal.
I sat next to a good friend that I hadn’t seen face to face for over a year. We enjoyed the food and drink at West & Main before the show and a beer and more blues from Damian Knapp at Modern Methods afterwards.
It was the kind of night that was easy to take for granted before COVID-19. Hopefully, this heightened appreciation continues as the coronavirus (hopefully) continues to roll back in the rearview mirror.
Benoit’s show was capped at 350 people, the 25 percent capacity limit that was in place when the show was announced, and Sunrise Entertainment’s Ken Haidaris said they were within 10 tickets of reaching that. limit.
Sometimes being in a hall that is three quarters empty can affect the performance and experience of the concert. It wasn’t Friday. The crowd listened intently during the music and were loud and grateful between songs.
Haidaris said that if the contract is correct, the Robins can make a profit with these reduced capacity shows. There are a lot of bluesy acts on the road today that, even without pandemic restrictions, probably cannot attract more than 400 or 500 people in a market of this size.
It would be great to see the Robins become a regular stop for blues tours. The blues may be a niche audience, but it’s a loyal following – and I’ve heard from more than one bar owner / promoter that blues fans keep the waiters and bar staff busy, c This is where places make their money.
Benoit told the crowd he was happy “to be part of the revival of the live scene.”
Judging by the crowd’s reaction, he wasn’t the only one.
Andy Gray is Ticket’s entertainment editor. Write to him at [email protected]