Live Music played by Rob Webster at the The Office Spiritorium
It begins with the bass: three notes, two tones leading into the tonic, the root note repeated in quarter beats, through one measure, into two before returning to the eighth-note intro. Once more the quarter notes beat a pulse, constant, steady, and in whatever bars in whatever towns flung like flies across America’s breadbasket, high-heeled feet have found their throbbing ground, penny loafers, sneakers, rubber-soled tennis shoes or boots of Spanish leather are polishing the pine-streaked floor and the glass in whatever window, however fogged, quivers like a case containing a heart too large for its fragile canister.
Drum sticks flicker mid-air momentarily and, in a whirl, thump a pad, every downbeat accentuated with one peremptory pump, and a tonal network spirals around the first heartbeat pulse: musical vibrations quivering like nerves so palpable you can almost feel their ecstatic fabric. And finally, a strummed acoustic guitar thrums through the room, and you might, only might, now realize all of it – drums, guitar and bass – is presently performed before you by one man. All this, before the soar of a searing vocal starts. And what a vocal. A leonine roar slashed through with all the scars of a blues singer while sweetened with the melodic sensibility of only our best pop crooners. But it doesn’t matter now. No one can hear it. They’ve checked out. They’re all body and soul, dancing there in the arms of whatever partner they’re lucky enough to share this experience with, this moment of such beauty and sensuality you can touch it, smell it, breathe it. And this moment is the music of Rob Webster. Rob Webster, native to Chicago, Illinois, is, quite simply, one of the most interesting things I’ve heard in modern music. Vividly I remember walking into Derailed Saloon (packed, as is always the case wherever Rob plays) in Durango, Colorado and hearing him for the first time. He was playing “Sex on Fire,” first sung by Kings of Leon, and unlike almost all covers, I could never listen with satisfaction to the original again. After hearing Rob’s vocal, the sound of a man so madly in love with the unattainable, so possessed by the unpossessible, the sound of a man whose prison is himself but can find some freedom in the beauty of his persistent cry, I could never listen to the original without recognizing it lacked the very fire it spoke of.