Gig review: JOANNE SHAW TAYLOR – Borderline, London, 12 May 2013

Tonight may have been all about cutting a live DVD, but with the exception of one false start you’d have been hard pushed to notice the cameras, as Joanne Shaw Taylor made light of any pressure with a splendid show that brought an extra charge of energy to some impressive material.

Since breaking out as a blues-rock artist with a brace of albums, ‘White Sugar’ and ‘Diamonds in the Dirt’, Joanne Shaw Taylor has repositioned herself both geographically – she moved to the States – and musically in terms of her new album ‘Almost Always Never’.

She’s still rooted in contemporary blues-rock, but her new material is more song-driven, and full of delicate tones and contrasting solos. As a result the guitar parts shape the songs rather than dominate them. It was curious then that her capacity crowd was notable for being twice her age, a fact reflected by the enthusiastic cheers for her one Hendrix cover of the night.

But if Joanne is hoping to lead her fans to greener pastures, then she’s doing so with the best possible material. A mix of biographical and poignant relationship songs, intricate word plays and incendiary guitar playing lit up a powerful set.

Her solos were as fiery as they were succinct, adding weight to a melody here, and evoking a meaning or mood there, in an exercise of measured restraint. No note was wasted and if her audience were there to cast her in the light of a guitar heroine, then she quickly made her own intentions clear as she confidently leant into the electro funk of ‘Soul Station’ and the altogether heavier riffs of ‘Tied & Bound’ with its ascending, snaking guitar line.

She added a whispered vocal on the subtle groove of ‘Beautifully Broken’ and explored a beautiful tone alongside keyboard player Jools Crudgins’ delicate percussive parts on ‘Almost Always Never’. And if they were good examples of her new ground breaking style, then she sought continuity too with the heavy duty shuffle ‘Let It Burn’ and the tightly wrapped funk of ‘Jump That Train’, both from her last ‘Diamonds in the Dirt’ album.

Her new and expanded band gave the songs a little more colour, the arrangements a wider scope and more room to manoeuvre.  No surprise then that her first encore was the heartfelt ‘Lose Myself To Loving You’, which adroitly mapped out the distance between her role as a guitar slinger and that of a fast maturing singer song-writer unafraid to tackle emotion.

Review by Pete Feenstra
Photos by Stephen Fourie

Set list: Soul Station/Tied & Bound/Beautifully Broken/Watch ‘em       Burn/Diamonds In The Dirt/Manic Depression/You Should Stay, I Should Go/Almost Always Never/Jealousy/Kiss The Ground Goodbye/Just Another Word/Let It Burn/Time Has Come/Jump That Train – Encores: Lose Myself To Loving You/Going Home


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