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Photos and review: Mavis Staples and Robert Cray Band in Salt Lake City

Published June 24, 2014 11:04 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Grammy-winning The Robert Cray Band and soul/gospel legend Mavis Staples co-headlined a packed show Friday night at Red Butte Garden in Salt Lake City.

Staples

The 74-year-old Mavis walked out with an arm to steady her as she waved her cane toward the crowd.

Opening song • She pulled out a Staples Singers classic in "If You're Ready (Come Go With Me)."

Highlight • The band's rendition of the Talking Heads' "Slippery People" had lots of people dancing, and it was done well.

Crowd favorite • For her 14th and final song Mavis pulled out "I'll Take You There," which had more than half the crowd on its feet and dancing.

Best quote • "It's always good to see ya'll! … Utah City, Utah!" Her geographical slip got a lot of good-natured laughs. Her guitar player Rick Holmstrom took her aside for a little clarification, to which she covered her mouth before approaching the mic to yell, "Salt Lake City!" a few times, taking it all in stride.

In the crowd • Harmonica player/band leader Harry Lee, Fox 13's Scott McKane, Kerri Cronk and a posse of family and friends, Utah Jazz great Mark Eaton and KRCL on-air host Eugenie Hero Jaffe.

Encore • After 14 songs, there was no need for an encore. Mavis and her trio of fantastic backup singers did take a break during two instrumentals.

Low note • The only low notes were the ones Mavis digs down deep to sing in her signature raspy voice — and that's a good thing.

Next up • The Robert Cray Band went second in the double-billing.

Cray

The band walked out and started playing over recorded music as they were introduced, which came off as a little strange as few people seemed to notice their arrival.

Opening song • From the 1986 "Bad Influence" album the band started with "Phone Booth," followed by "Poor Johnny" and "Right Next Door (Because of Me)" from the Grammy-winning "Strong Persuader" album.

Highlight • Generally speaking it was watching Robert Cray feel the music as his face contorted while cutting loose often throughout the band's set.

Crowd favorite • It was either "Chicken in the Kitchen," "The Forecast (Calls for Pain)" or "(Won't Be) Coming Home" — hard to peg that one down.

Best quote • The place was a bit breezy, which prompted Cray to quip, "This is the first time my hair has ever blown in the wind." Earlier he said, "Thanks for the invitation — we always show up."

In the crowd • A lot of loyal fans.

Encore • Started with the playful "Hip Tight Onions" instrumental and ended with "Time Makes Two," showcasing one last time Cray's impeccable soulful vocal range and his phenomenal talents on the guitar.

Low note • Stage right transitioned from a manageable crowd of 30 or so dancing fans during Mavis Staples to a parking lot for anyone bold enough (and there were plenty) to stand in the aisle and sway or bob to the sounds of Robert Cray.

Next up • Natalie Cole, June 24, 7:30 p.m.