20 April 2017
Stargazer's Theatre, Colorado Springs, CO
The story or Rick Roberts is another story of survival over the last 35 years -- following car accidents, traumatic brain injury, and extensive rehabilitation, this evening Rick performed in only his fourth (4th) show in the last 20 years, in front of a small audience at the pleasant, intimate setting about a mile East of downtown Colorado Springs known as the Stargazer's Theatre.
Rick's rehabilitation included re-learning how to a) walk, b) sing, and c) strum a guitar with his right hand. The first time I ever saw Rick in person was at the Firefall Reunion, 9 April 2008, Boulder Theatre, Boulder, CO. Since then, Rick is now able to walk pretty well on his own without a cane, can speak fluently, can strum a guitar without any sign of trouble, and demonstrates a vocal range comparable with what we heard in the 1970s. His pitch control tends to struggle when warming up his voice, as was the case with his opening, 1977 hit number "Just Remember I Love You", but with effort he's able to convey a strong message with his vocal cords.
His set list, broken up into two segments with a break, included relatively new songs, including a beautiful song about his wife of 24 years (Mary) called "Learning To Love" from his 2010 EP Same Mirror Different Reflections. Mary hosted a small concession table on stage right during the show, and also serves as a road manager. Other recent, very interesting songs he performed included one about a sociopath ex-girlfriend called "Just Like You" from Phases, "I'll Be Your Daddy", "Next Last Chance", and "Before You Call It Love", co-written with the late Little Feat guitarist, Lowell George.
Rick also performed several songs from his first two solo albums, including "In My Own Small Way", "In A Dream", "Jenny Blues", and "Lights".
And of course, Roberts sang and strummed acoustic versions of his major Firefall tracks, including "Livin' Ain't Livin'", "You Are The Woman", "Dolphins' Lullaby", "So Long", "Someday Soon", and "Strange Way", and "Stardust". Former Winter Rose band mate Michael Reese accompanied Rick on several tracks with his electric guitar.
Prior to performing "It Doesn't Matter", Rick explained that he co-wrote the song with Chris Hillman, and performed it for Stephen Stills who, in turn, mostly replaced the lyrics into a new version, and later took co-credit for the song. As a result, when Rick recorded his original version with Firefall, he had to credit the song to Stills/Hillman/Roberts.
This sit-down acoustic show demonstrated Rick's "Storytellers" skills, conveying amazing between-song anecdotes from as far back as 1971 with vivid clarity and humorous irony, not unlike those in two recent autobiographies, Song Stories and Lame Brain. He even offered a question/answer session towards the end of the show. In particular he answered questions I posed regarding a song he co-wrote with Chris Hillman in the mid-1970s called, "Clear Sailin'", and the opening track to his first solo album Windmills called "Deliver Me".
Rick eloquently verbalized countless stories about Gram Parsons, renting a room to Jackson Browne, touring with Dan Fogelberg, auditioning for the Country-Rock Flying Burrito Brothers without any extensive knowledge of Country music, excessive cocaine, Boulder, CO nightclub scenes, etc.
Appropriately, Rick agreed to switch from his Martin 6-string, and retune his 12-string Taylor, guitar to perform a show-ending, appropriate "Colorado".
I'm very glad I waited, though for over 30 years, to see this talented singer/songwriter -- one of my all-time, all-time favorites.
[***1/2] - Steven T.
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