It's difficult sometimes when you know an artist (musician, writer, or actual artist type of artist) in a personal capacity and they ask for your opinion on their work. However, I'd prefer an honest appraisal / critique from a friend than have someone tell me I was amazing because that's what they thought I wanted to hear.
Sometime last year Robbie Burns gave me one of his CDs and asked me for honest feedback on it. I told him it was very good but to me it sounded like the CD you'd make before you make your first CD. It had potential, but you could tell he had some way to go. I probably said some other stuff too. I can't remember. But he has improved, so in a small way I may have helped.
Based on this gig, I'd say Robbie has the potential to do this kind of thing for a living. Obviously, a whole slice of luck is needed to break it in the music business, but if he gets that opportunity, I can see him doing well.
For starters he has done something quite smart and surrounded himself with talented musicians. He also handled some technical difficulties well - yes he was sweating a bit, but swapping to another person's guitar halfway through a song would phase much more experienced people, so he did well with that. I liked that he acknowledged the problem to the audience, but powered through it. It shows maturity in a performer.
His own songs were well-constructed. There was some variety to them, although it helps having a band there to give you that breadth of sound. I'm not sure if they would sound a bit samey if they were sung solo with just an acoustic guitar accompaniament. Maybe that's me. I find after a while singer/songwriters all tend to sound a bit the same.
Is there room for improvement? Yeah, I think so. I'd like to see the band let loose more often on genuine rock numbers, and maybe see Robbie step out from behind the guitar on one or two songs to just sing as a proper frontman.
The first set, comprised of covers, was very well put together, but I was starting to get a bit bored by the time the third Jack Johnson cover came along.
I tend to think of Jack Johnson as the musical equivalent of wallpaper - you want something to liven up the room, but nothing you need to concentrate on. I'd like to see Robbie and his band throw in a real surprise - maybe a Dandy Warhols cover, or some classic rock, just to make people go 'oooh, wasn't expecting that.'
And given that he had a girl singing with him who was able to do a very good homage to Norah Jones, a genuine duet would be a good addition to the repertoire. 'Another Heart Calls' from the All American Rejects third album would fit the bill.
But those are minor quibbles for a young musician who is still doing his A-Levels, and whose primary audience seemed to be from his Sixth Form (being in that crowd made me feel oooold). There is apparently an album on its way - I'm pleased to hear that and on the basis of what I heard at the Funky Buddha, I'd expect it to be a good few levels up from his demo CD.
I also had a moment of reflected glory, when a person I know in a completely different context who happens to be one of the parents of the warm-up act came up to me and said 'Hello' and what was I doing there.When I said I knew Robbie, she asked 'How?' and I was able to say 'I'm one of his youth leaders.'
Yeah, that's right. 0.000000000000000000000000000000000000001% of what you see up there might be attributable to me!