MORE than 40 years have passed since the Tom Robinson Band (TRB) stormed onto the music scene with the magnificent album Power of Darkness and hits such as 2-4-6-8 Motorway and Glad To Be Gay. Controversial, anti-establishment and thrilling. New wave, punk, the works, warts and all.
Yet Mr Robinson, now in his latish 60s, has lost little of his zest for life, campaigning zeal, or determination to fight injustice or prejudice – despite the gentrifying influence of the BBC where he is a regular broadcaster (and a good one at that).
The hair may be a little greyer, the voice a fraction less robust (despite copious amounts of healing water), but he still has attitude, a bucket-load of charm and a mighty stage presence. Commanding.
Performing at Pizza Express Live (Holborn) in London as part of a three-night run, Robinson showed he can still deliver his songs with panache, helped in big part by the exhilarating guitar work of Adam Phillips (Eric Clapton on steroids), the perpetual motion of Andy Treacey on drums (arms like pistons) and the sticking plaster of Jim Simmons on piano (holding everything together).
The night was tinged with sadness given the recent death of former band member Danny Kustow who in the 1970s and 1980s was renowned for his thrilling and fiery guitar playing.
Robinson, we learnt, had been with Kustow the day before he died (Bath Royal United Hospital) and ensured later that very same day that one of TRB’s 1970s hits Don’t Take No For An Answer was played on the Radio 2 programme he was hosting. Not only that, but that an iPad in Kustow’s hospital room would be on so that he could hear it (he was unconscious at the time).
In tribute to Kustow, the night’s music was split into two distinct sets. First, a set based primarily around Robinson’s more recent music.
Then, after a short break, the performing of a string of songs that Kustow was a big part of. Hits such as the rousing Winter of 79, the quirky Grey Cortina, a tender Too Good To Be True (originally written about Kustow and sung with tears in Robinson’s eyes), Martin (all about brotherly love, made all the more poignant by the presence of his brother in the audience), a rumbustious 2-4-6-8 Motorway, Up Against The Wall and the finale – Don’t Take No For An Answer. Sung for Kustow. Magic.
The first set was built primarily around Robinson’s more recent music – songs that confirm he has lost none of his passion or attitude. A splendid rip-roaring Risky Business from 2011 album Only The Now – a full-frontal attack on the banks for their despicable behaviour in the run up to the 2008 financial crisis and beyond (Fred Goodwin, former boss of Royal Bank of Scotland was not spared).
This was followed by the equally gutsy The Mighty Sword Of Justice, (from the same album). A scathing attack on the injustices in the legal system: ‘There’s one law for the rich, and another one for the poor.’
With a super pacy version of Steely Dan’s Rikki Don’t Lose That Number and a thumping War Baby (Treacey manic on drums, Phillips electric on guitar), this was a night that proved Robinson has lost none of his ability to entertain.
Still Loving You? (the title of his opening song). We do indeed, Mr Robinson.
RIP Danny Kustow. Anyone who would like to make a donation to the Critical Care Unit at Bath Royal United Hospital can do so by clicking on this link.