Robert Cray is a member of the Blues Hall of Fame and is a five-time Grammy Award winner and after the show Sunday evening at Anthem in the Hard Rock Casino in Sioux City, those of us in the crowd know why he has had such a decorated career.

Cray is simply one of the smoothest  guitarists in the blues, making what he does look so effortless. He's one of those rare players that doesn't need to sing a note to know who is playing, simply by the guitar tone and the riffs that make the hair stand up on your arms, it's so good. But when you add in that incredibly soulful voice, you have an evening of great music that makes you want to listen all night long.

From the opening song "Phone Booth", he had the crowd in the palm of his hand, altering the lyrics to fit the venue:

I'm in a phone booth, baby
Number scratched on the wall
I'm in a phone booth, baby
Number scratched on the wall
I'm new in Sioux City
Got no one else to call

I've been fortunate to see Cray a half dozen times in his 30+ year career and Sunday may have been the most enjoyable for me as a fan. It wasn't that he played all my favorites (many of us still can't believe he didn't play "Smokin' Gun", the song that crossed over and really put him on the map even more than his uncredited appearance in "Animal House" as the bass player in Otis Day & The Knights) but more because he seemed completely at ease at the Hard Rock. He talked to the audience, often away from the microphone, yet we can still hear him as the venue is set up for only about 500 concert goers. He laughed, hell, he even made rooster sounds after he played "Chicken in the Kitchen"!

Cray has played with some of the biggest artists in the world in his incredible career, but it seems like now at the age of 61, he's comfortable in his performance and with his audience enough that he can now enjoy himself as much as we enjoy it.

I've seen him at literally every phase of his career. From just hitting the big time with 1986's "Strong Persuader", through opening for Eric Clapton (THAT was an incredible tour with Cray opening and Clapton's side guitarists being Doyle Bramhall II and Derek Trucks, then Cray joining them later in the set! WOW) through headlining JazzFest in Sioux Falls. He's always been the consummate professional, but to see the more human side of him last night at the Hard Rock in Sioux City was a real treat.

Anthem at the Hard Rock in Sioux City has made quite a splash with entertainment over their first six weeks in operation and from what I've been told, it's going to continue with plans for 200 events a year planned.

They've shown a strong commitment to the Blues with the continuation of the Thursday night Blues Series (we will be announcing another ten shows on the Series this Wednesday!) plus so many other great shows coming up, the Hard Rock is so much more than just a cool new casino. They're an entertainment destination that now boasts three restaurants and a very cool hotel as well.

I'm guessing I'm going to see you soon at the Hard Rock.

Photo Courtesy of Beth Anderson