×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Robert Cray; Etta James; Robben Ford

After sporadic appearances over the years, Blues Night at last seems to have become an annual event at Hollywood Bowl, though the issue of how much of this music is real blues can be vigorously debated. Interestingly, it was Robben Ford , the dark-horse act on the bill, who offered the best performance -- and, pertinently, the most blues -- before roughly 13,770 partisans.

With:
Band: Etta James, Josh Sklair, Bobby Murray, Ronnie Buttacavoli, Kraig Kilby, Richard Howell, Dave Mathews, Richard Cousins, Donto James. The Robert Cray Band: Robert Cray, Kevin Hayes, Jim Pugh, Karl Sevareid, Ed Manion, Mark Pender.

After sporadic appearances over the years, Blues Night at last seems to have become an annual event at Hollywood Bowl, though the issue of how much of this music is real blues can be vigorously debated. Interestingly, it was Robben Ford , the dark-horse act on the bill, who offered the best performance — and, pertinently, the most blues — before roughly 13,770 partisans.

Ford, perhaps best known for his work with Miles Davis and L.A. Express (George Harrison, Joni Mitchell) touring bands, recharged his solo career last year with a nice album for Chick Corea’s GRP-distributed Stretch label. He didn’t need much fanfare or support to launch his arsenal of mean, high-powered, darting blues guitar licks, just a power trio — agile six-string bass guitar and highly syncopated drumming.

Ford’s voice is rather modest, but it served as an attractive foil to his virtuoso guitar, putting over the automotive sex motif of “Start It Up” particularly well.

Etta James has appeared on the last four Bowl blues evenings, and this experienced R&B performer could be relied upon to provide enough vocal growling, rump-rolling and mugging to satisfy a stadium. Yet her performance this time seemed slightly tepid, possibly even fatigued, in comparison with previous years.

Little of her act had changed, from the churning Stax-style band to the perennial “Breakin’ Up Somebody’s Home” and “I’d Rather Go Blind” warhorses.

As for Polygram artist Robert Cray, it is no great mystery why this healthy, virile virtuoso with the soulful voice, a guitar style like sharp needles and airtight band continues to fall short of his potential. It’s the lackluster material — one pedestrian R&B number after another, capped by a weird, stilted, Latin-tinged tune called “I Was Warned.” Also it was hard to feel any real emotion from this group, however polished the sound.

One must complain about the peculiar, distracting, presumably time-saving staging; Ford was placed at the extreme stage left and James the extreme stage right, with only Cray in the comfortable center.

Robert Cray; Etta James; Robben Ford

(Hollywood Bowl; 17,979 seats; $ 47.50 top)

Production: Presented by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Assn. Robben Ford andthe Blue Line: Robben Ford, Roscoe Beck, Tom Brechtlein. Etta James and the Roots Reviewed July 28, 1993.

Cast: Band: Etta James, Josh Sklair, Bobby Murray, Ronnie Buttacavoli, Kraig Kilby, Richard Howell, Dave Mathews, Richard Cousins, Donto James. The Robert Cray Band: Robert Cray, Kevin Hayes, Jim Pugh, Karl Sevareid, Ed Manion, Mark Pender.

More Legit

  • SpotCo and Tanna Inc. Announce Partnership

    Broadway Sales and Ticketing Firms SpotCo and Tanna Inc. Announce Partnership

    Marketing and branding agency SpotCo and independent analytics firm Tanna Inc. have teamed up to offering their expertise in attempts to optimize ticket sales, revenue, and inventory management for Broadway shows, Variety has learned. Clients will have access to tailored, personal tool-belt from SpotCo’s co-managing director Steven Santore and Tanna Inc. founder and president Gregg [...]

  • Bryan Cranston on the Exhausting Joys

    Listen: Bryan Cranston on the Exhausting Joys of Broadway

    For anyone who doubts that being a Broadway actor can be grueling, let Bryan Cranston set you straight. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “There is a cumulative effect of fatigue that happens on the Broadway schedule that no amount of sleep the night before is going to wash away,” the Emmy and Tony-winning actor [...]

  • Jeff Daniels Variety Broadway to Kill

    How 'To Kill a Mockingbird' Beat the Odds to Deliver a Broadway Smash

    Jeff Daniels slumps into a chair in the Shubert Theatre, grasping an oversize Starbucks and looking bone-crushingly exhausted. His eyelids are heavy, and he seems like a man in desperate need of rest. It’s easy to understand why. It’s late March, and Daniels has just given his 100th Broadway performance as Atticus Finch, the small-town attorney [...]

  • ZZ Top, Caesars Entertainment Team on

    ZZ Top, Caesars Team for Jukebox Musical 'Sharp Dressed Man' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees ZZ Top and Caesars Entertainment are developing “Sharp Dressed Man,” a jukebox musical set to open next year in Las Vegas featuring the band’s greatest hits. Members Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard are all serving as executive producers. “Sharp Dressed Man” is described as an “outrageous, [...]

  • Williamstown Theater Festival 2016 season

    Marisa Tomei Starring in Broadway Revival of 'The Rose Tattoo'

    Marisa Tomei will star in the Broadway revival of Tennessee Williams’ “The Rose Tattoo.” The Oscar-winning actress will play Serafina, a part previously performed by the likes of Maureen Stapleton and Anna Magnani. It’s also a role that Tomei is familiar with, having starred in a Williamstown Theatre Festival production in 2016. “The Rose Tattoo” [...]

  • White Pearl review

    London Theater Review: 'White Pearl'

    Playwright Anchuli Felicia King dismantles the Asian market in this misfiring satire at London’s Royal Court Theatre. “White Pearl” makes a case that those seeking to make inroads into the Far East, perceiving a new El Dorado, are no better that colonial conquistadors of an earlier age — and entirely unequipped to understand the specifics [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content