There's just something about a power trio – a group consisting of nothing more than drums, bass, and guitar – that really gets to the heart of what makes rock and roll great. The meat and potatoes of the music world, a power trio works with the fundamentals and doesn’t have the benefit of extra instruments to spice up their repertoire. While it might seem like a handicap at first glance, it usually leads to a more exciting performance style and often at very high volumes (the perfect recipe for great rock and roll). And unlike groups with several members, a three-person band has room for far more improvisation and creativity since they are free from the need for detailed arrangements that songs with several instruments often require. Some of the best bands in music have been power trios! Today, we're taking a look at a few of our favorites.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience
While the talents of the legendary Jimi Hendrix was enough to supplant the group as one of the quintessential bands of the ‘60s, the two remaining pieces were no slouches either. With Noel Redding on bass and backing vocal duties and Mitch Mitchell on drums, The Jimi Hendrix Experience proved that you didn’t need more than the basics to rock as hard or as loud as the bigger groups on the block. Although The Jimi Hendrix Experience only managed to release three albums, their short tenure left a permanent mark on the history of popular music, becoming cultural icons while pioneering genres such as hard rock, psychedelic rock and even early heavy metal.
Regarded by many as the first true supergroup, Cream brought together the talents of a trio of well-known musicians who were already regarded as “the cream of the crop” in Britain, inspiring their name. And like The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cream pioneered the idea that a power trio with enough talent and cohesiveness could create anything as exciting as a bigger band. And also like The Jimi Hendrix Experience, the group didn’t last too long either, breaking up after only two years of working together. Despite their short tenure, they managed to churn out an impressive number of very memorable hits including Sunshine Of Your Love, I Feel Free, Crossroads and White Room, among others. And while they couldn’t keep their differences from breaking them apart, their unique blend of masterful technique and heavy sound set the stage for future “heavy” acts (for that time, at least) such as Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and more. Below is the band performing Sunshine Of Your Love during their famous farewell concert in 1968.
Nirvana was not your prototypical chart-topping band. Coming up at a time when rock bands were expected to be choreographed, flashy and outspoken, this trio was exactly the opposite; their stage presence was unrehearsed and chaotic, they dressed more like fans than rock stars and their interviews were often as incoherent as their lyrics. But despite all this, or maybe because of it, the three of them would go on to build a unique legacy that now has them regarded as one of the most influential and important rock bands of the modern era. With Kurt Cobain on guitar and vocals, Kris Novoselic on bass and future mega-musician Dave Grohl on drums and backing vocals, Nirvana's music was highly dynamic and often consisted of loud, distorted guitar, a deep, booming bassline and powerful drumming, all while featuring melodies that were undeniably catchy. Below is the band performing Lithium during the 1992 MTV Movie Awards.
Unlike the rest of the power trios on this list (and their short careers), Rush has been rocking for decades together, trekking on large scale world tours as recently as late last year. Formed in August 1968 in the Willowdale neighbourhood of Toronto, Ontario, Rush consists of bassist, keyboardist, and lead vocalist Geddy Lee, guitarist and backing vocalist Alex Lifeson and drummer, percussionist, and lyricist Neil Peart. While the band has enjoyed a ton of recognition and praise recently -- such as being inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame as part of the 2013 class -- it wasn't that long ago that they were often overlooked by a big chunk of rock fans despite featuring three members that are arguably masters of their instruments. And while their complex compositions, eclectic lyrical motifs and Geddy Lee's "love it or hate it" higher register vocals isn't for everyone, no one has ever denied their musicianship. Below is just a small sample of their amazing live performances.
Your Turn to Sound Off!
There's Plenty more where that came from! What's your favorite power trio?