Why This Gig?
Because when Power in the Darkness was released in 1978 I played in incessantly for months. To my 15-year-old self it seemed there had never been a collection of songs that so neatly summed up the way I thought about the world. Also because you should never miss an opportunity to see Tom Robinson play. He always puts on a great show and is one of the nicest and most genuine people in the music industry.
This show is to celebrate the release of The Anthology (1977-1979), a new compilation that collects pretty much all of the songs that the Tom Robinson Band recorded in their brief to-year history.
No support act. There was an option to pay a little more and get an invitation to the album launch event that took place immediately before the gig. I didn’t, but a friend who did says it consisted of some free wine, a copy of the CD and a conversation between Tom Robinson and David Quantick.
As I arrived, a large screen at the back of the stage was showing a documentary about TRB. There’s a DVD included in the new package and I assume that this documentary is on that.
As Tom and his current band take the stage, he’s at pains to point out that this isn’t a Tom Robinson Band gig. He says that the other members of TRB were very important to how the original album sounded and that their absence shouldn’t be read as any kind of attempt to downplay their contributions.
Then they launch into “Up Against the Wall” and it sounds fantastic. The rest of the album follows in order and most of it still sounds really good. “Winter of 79” was always my favourite song from the album and it’s a highlight of the set. It’s worth remembering that Tom rarely plays many of these songs these days. In fact one of them – “A Man You Never Saw” – is announced as a world premiere as TRB never played it live.
It’s not a long album, so all too quickly we’re at the final track – “Power in the Darkness”. For this song, TV Smith joins them on stage and takes over lead vocals leaving Tom to deliver the “freedom” chant. This chant has been nicely updated to cover topical concerns like bankers and privacy.
After that, the band leave the stage briefly before returning to play three of the songs from the Rising Free EP – for some reason “Right On Sister” is omitted. Given that “Power in the Darkness” was updated, it’s interesting to see that Tom sings “Glad to be Gay” using lyrics closer to the original record’s than I’ve heard him use at any time in the last thirty-five years.
Another quick break and they’re back for a storming “2-4-6-8 Motorway”. That’s apparently where they planned to finish, but the crowd were having none of it, so they played “War Baby” too.
A great night all in all. The album still sounds powerful and a lot of the lyrics are as relevant today as they were when they were written. It’s been several years since I listened to Power in the Darkness but I still knew all of the lyrics – which is a mark of just how much the album influenced me.
I’ve put the set list on Setlist.fm.