What a difference year makes. While Finnish guitarist Erja Lyttinen is a regular visitor to these shores for festival and select clubs dates, she’s upped her game with a revamped line-up, some excellent new songs and stellar performance levels that suggest she has one eye on the American market.
From her bubbly personality to her scintillating guitar playing, you won’t easily forget an Erja Lyytinen show. She engages the crowd naturally and then draws them in with some steely licks, deep grooves and wide variety of contemporary blues related material.
Her set is punctuated by startling Elmore James style slide runs and contrasting intricate guitar parts in a sparkling show that flows perfectly from beginning to end.
One notable addition to the show is the presence of Hammond and piano player Harri Taittonen, who moves effortlessly from accompanist to the accomplished soloist. Ditto the bass playing Juha Verona whose undulating bass lines glue everything together seamlessly. When called upon, he leaves his mark with an extended bass solo that perfectly maps out the dynamic of the song and finds him trading licks with Erja, as the two of them crouch in the right hand corner of the stage.
Erja’s talent is succinctly bottled in her broad based song-writing ability which moves from the poignant ‘Change Of Season’ – complete with Kai Jokiaho’s whip-crack snare and an extended bass solo – through to the proggy highlight ‘Black Ocean’ . Then there’s the catchy sing-along quality of the forthcoming single ‘Stolen Hearts’ and the jangling-into-piercing slide guitar of Curtis Mayfield’s ‘People Get Ready’.
And right there at the heart of the songs is a guitarist who knows the value of space, time and tone, as evidenced by the slow blues of ‘You Make Me Feel So Sad’ and another tone change on the enveloping ‘Steamy Windows’. Bolstered by a big Hammond sweep she segues into a Madonna’s ‘Like A Virgin’ and pushes on to a climactic psychedelic guitar blur, before a belated return to the big groove.
Tonight Erja Lyytinen coverts another club full of admirers to her guitar driven show. She cleverly combines a deep commitment to the blues with the art of songwriting. Above all, she infuses her show with an essential sense of fun, ranging from call and response moments to a walkabout and slide solo with a whisky glass. The blues has never been so much fun as when in the hands of Finland’s finest.
Review by Pete Feenstra
Pete Feenstra presents his Rock & Blues Show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Tuesday at 19:00 GMT, and “The Pete Feenstra Feature” on Sundays at 20:00
Photos by John Bull/Rockrpix, except where stated
Photo by Phil Honley
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