Review of Tim Robbins and The Rogues Gallery Band Live @ Le Poisson Rouge, 7/26/11

I was more than excited to see Tim Robbins and The Rogues Gallery Band perform on July 26th at Le Poisson Rouge. Yes, Tim Robbins is a well-renowned actor who has recently released a debut CD with several players, and this actor-turned-musician status probably contributed to the venue being near sold-out. However, I was interested to see how the songs from his self-titled album translated live.

The band opened (and closed) the show with a slow, beautiful rendition of the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun,” before breaking into the waltz of “You’re My Dare.” “Queen of Dreams” soon followed, with Robbins stretching his vocals for the simile-filled chorus.

Somewhere in this timeframe, Robbins paid homage to his family, particularly his father Gil Robbins, a former member of folk-band The Highwaymen, who recently passed. Pointing to the portrait-installation of his father hanging side-stage, Tim commemorated him further by stating that he was there with him during this performance, while also discussing how he grew up nearby on King Street in the Village.

“I first heard this song at a hootenanny…It’s a song about redemption and survival…” Robbins gave this introduction before performing “O Mary Don’t You Weep,” a pre-Civil War, spiritual-liberation song with biblical ties. The song is frequently associated with bands like The Caravans, The Swan Silvertones, and Bruce Springsteen with the Seeger Sessions Band, but the Rogues Gallery brought this traditional song to life with a wonderfully boisterous audience sing-along. Apparently NY kicked LA’s ass in this regard.

Tim then invited special guest Steve Butts to the stage (another member of The Highwaymen). Butts spoke about Gil Robbins before performing Tom Paxton’s “Ramblin’ Boy” and Carl Sandburg’s “Portland County Jail,” while Robbins happily lip-synched beside him.

I was impressed that Robbins had the guts to mention Mary Magdalene before performing “Book of Josie,” the first track on the album. Although the song reflects ideas in the Gnostic Gospels, I wasn’t expecting the artist to boldly state to the audience what the song was about.

The band followed with “Time to Kill” and “Brooklyn Bridge” before someone on stage said, “Marriage laws have gotten more liberal in this state.” The band then performed a cover of “Chapel of Love” (The Dixie Cups).

The band closed out the night with Billie Holiday’s “What a Little Moonlight Can Do” and “Lightning Calls,” the last track on their album.

As far as family matters, Tim’s brother Dave Robbins performed on stage with the band, his son Miles Robbins opened up the show with his band Pow Pow, and Susan Sarandon was also spotted on the premises.

The venue itself provided a nice sound set-up, with the stage uniquely facing the audience diagonally; the staff was also friendly and helpful.

Overall, this was one of those rare shows that felt more like a genuine experience. Every musician on stage was brimming with joy, the band knew how to get the audience involved, mirth was in the air, and there was some serious instrument eye-candy (upright bass, lute, soprano sax, Fender Strat, Nord keyboard, Martin guitar, and plenty more).

I recommend catching Tim Robbins and the Rogues Gallery Band on tour in order to truly appreciate their debut studio effort.

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