Review: The Tom Robinson Band, Wickham Festival

As the sun started to fall on a weekend of great music at Wickham Festival, we found our spot in a packed main stage tent with some trepidation for the Tom Robinson Band.

We reminisced about the last time we saw him perform – in 1981 and 1988 respectively and wondered if he could still live up to our youthful memories. The answer was a definite yes.

On tour to promote his first CD release for 20 years – he performed a great range of his old numbers as well as giving us all a good taste of the new material to be released on October 16.

The set opened with Up Against the Wall immediately indicating Robinson has lost none of his power of musical sentiment and delivery and strength of political feeling.

Those alongside us clearly knew all the old numbers and immediately fell into singing the crowd responses for the classic live number Martin.

He explained that his own ‘domestic circumstances might have changed’ but affirmed his commitment to promote the rights of the gay, lesbian and transgender community and encouraged us all to be ourselves – whoever that might be.

The crowd echoed this sentiment with strong supporting voice to the choruses of the anthemic Glad to Be Gay.

Naturally, 2-4-6-8 Motorway and War Baby closed the set after we heard new numbers from the forthcoming album Only the Now.

These reflect many of today’s political, social and economic issues – the bombing of Iraq, refugees seeking access to the UK via the Channel Tunnel and the financial disparities between rich and poor in the UK today.

The new album is fan-funded via Pledge Music – a crowd-funding activity which has raised 160 per cent of the costs of recording and issue of the new material to date.

The specific detail of the songs might have changed across the trio of decades since our vinyl purchases of Power in the Darkness and TRB2 albums, but Robinson’s insight and passion stands the test of time and for we ‘old’ fans the Tom Robinson of the 1980s was there again with an updated twist to a familiar sound.

Times have changed. The new material is available to pre-order on digital download. What has not changed is Robinson’s insight and passion for a campaign and willingness to musically confront the burning issues of the day.