2019 has been something of a breakthrough year for powerful blues rocker Sari Schorr. The New Yorker began the year with a prestigious Blues Week slot at the 100 Club then as a very well matched support for King King. The autumn has seen a more extensive European tour culminating in this date at the Water Rats where the size of the venue created a very intimate atmosphere.
As a bonus there was an opening set from Jon Amor. Better known as a guitarist with the Hoax before forming his own band, on this occasion as an acoustic troubadour- with the odd taped bit of lead guitar- the emphasis was on his songwriting with songs like ‘Illuminous Girl’ and ‘Drunk on your Love’ from his latest album ‘Colour in the Sky’.
The songs also had dark and quirky twists such as ‘Stitch in Your Party Dress’ while his rough-edged R n B voice gave them added character. He was dryly humorous notably when he went into the crowd without a micrphpoine and improvised lyrics to one of his songs, The gritty, country- flavoured ‘Faith Reborn’ finished a set that whetted the palate nicely.
Sari Schorr herself opened with ‘The New Revolution’ which was decent enough but rather eclipsed by ‘Damn The Reason’ with its very strong chorus. ‘Demolition’ was a longer, laid-back blues which gave Stevie Watts full reign to confirm why he is one of the go-to keyboard players who has backed up many artists in the field, but the majority of the set was a lot more direct, rocky and uptempo epitomised by ‘Ain’t Got No Money’ and ‘Thank You’.
Bad Company/Mott the Hoople’s ‘Ready For Love’ was a perfect fit while the old standard ‘I Just Wanna Make Love To You’ which could be in danger of over use, was enlivened, being a vehicle for guitarist Ash Wilson and Stevie to show their prowess with extended solos.
The rest of the set was somewhat crisper and punchier but what made the songs special was the way Sari’s powerful and emotional voice was complemented by the band’s intuitive playing, plus well placed backing vocals, which suited the musical style perfectly. In particular Ash, who put a burgeoning solo career on hold to join forces, played with a great feel- the slogan ‘not flash just Ash’ could almost be invented for him, though he did let rip somewhat on ‘Kiss Me’.
I was roaring along to songs I didn’t know at the start of the year, in particular the superb ‘Maybe I’m Falling’, one of those songs like ‘Hold On I’m Coming’ and ‘Hard To Handle’ with a soulful base that also rocks and the Robert Johnson themed ‘King Of Rock n Roll.‘
The tempo changed with the mid-pocket ‘Turn The Radio On’ and reflective title track of her last album ‘Never Say Never’, but Sari and band judged the pacing of the set perfectly as it entered the final lap with uptempo rockers like ‘Valentina’, which called to mind some of the great American bands from the seventies, and ‘Freedom’.
Closer ‘Aunt Hazel’- which Sari confessed was NYC slang for heroin was not as strong a song but the band relaxed into a great groove, Ash charging from one end of the cramped stage to the next to duel with Stevie.
The first encore was her cover of ‘Black Betty’ which has become something of a signature, slowing down and radically reimagining the song before it built back to a more recognisable climax in the hands of these skilled musicians, while ‘Back To LA’ closed a set a very impressive near hour and three quarters long, and was a rousing heartland-style rocker with her vocals having me reaching for Melissa Etheridge comparisons.
With her trademark grace, Sari said she would remember the gig for a long time on the flight back to the East Coast of the USA. She would not be the only one with fond memories to cherish of the evening.
Review and photos by Andy Nathan
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Pete Feenstra celebrated his 300th show in October 2019. Pete heads up a five-hour blues rock marathon when “Tuesday is Bluesday” from 19:00 GMT. Listen out also for his interview-based Feature show on Sundays (20:00 GMT)
Power Plays w/c 25 November (Mon-Fri)
Throughout December we are featuring Best of 2019 selections from the GRTR! Reviewers.
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09:00-12:00 Melodic Rock Featured Albums of 2019
12:00-13:00 Melodic Hard Rock Featured Albums of 2019
14:00-16:00 Singer Songwriter Featured Albums of 2019
Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)
A selection of albums featured in 2019
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