Gig review: JOE LYNN TURNER, The Borderline, London, 5 April 2015

JOE LYNN TURNER, The Borderline, London, 5 April 2015

Appearances by Joe Lynn Turner in the UK are rare, the last being a decade ago with the Hughes Turner Project  (since when at least a couple have been promised and not materialised), so his UK tour was eagerly anticipated, and resulted in a near sold out Borderline, even if the acoustic format was not necessarily an obvious one for the legendary singer.

Bordello Bros, The Borderline, London, 5 April 2015

After a warm up acoustic set from ‘Bordello Bros’, guitarist/singer Dave Winkler and the male members of his band Bordello Rose, which ranged from their own work like ‘Tomorrows World’ to covers of ‘I Want it All’ and intriguingly Maiden’s ‘Wasted Years’,  JLT came on stage looking exactly same as he has for the last 35 years and accompanied only by able guitarist Simon Gaviani.

 He started well with a pair of Rainbow songs in ‘Stone Cold’, the best song Foreigner never wrote,  and ‘Street of Dreams’,  reminding us that his melodic singing was a key factor as Ritchie Blackmore steered the band in the then fashionable radio friendly AOR direction in the early eighties.

After seemingly being more interested in plugging new group Rated X, he had to remind himself to tell some of the stories behind how the songs were written. The banter ranged from dealing with one persistent heckler to  extending olive branches to Ritchie to reassemble Rainbow, at which point some of my fellow scribes present used the occasion to shout interview questions from the floor! He said he was struggling with a ‘lurgy’ but his voice still seemed to be holding up well.

Joe Lynn Turner, The Borderline, London, 5 April 2015

‘Catch the Rainbow’ may not have been from his Rainbow days but, dedicated to Ronnie James Dio, is a beautiful classic, then he played a Hughes Turner song in ’Mystery of the Heart’. So far so good, but the night began to decline with not one but a trio of Beatles covers.

Now I know that all American rock musicians of a certain vintage pay homage to the Scouse quartet who inspired them to pick up a guitar and play, but allied to a cover of Van Morrison’s ‘Moondance’ I felt short changed.

More satisfying though were the pair of melodic singles from Deep Purple’s unfairly maligned ’Slaves and Masters’  album with him in ‘King of Dreams’ and the syrupy ‘Love Conquers All’.

However compared to some acoustic shows I have seen recently-  Mike Tramp, Kip Winger and Danny Vaughn and Dan Reed specifically- he doesn’t seem to have grasped the full potential of the unplugged solo format and I didn’t feel we got enough of an insight into the artist and his life and work.

Joe Lynn Turner, The Borderline, London, 5 April 2015

However the gig became increasingly cabaret with singalong versions of ‘Hush’ and’ Smoke on the Water’,  albeit with good Spanish guitar,  and another cover of ‘Roadhouse Blues’ to round off a short ish hour and quarter set.

 The unimaginative set list was barely distinguishable from what you might have heard the busker knocking off at a local tube station, while I understand his private VIP set (itself a regrettable trend) featured Elvis covers.

JLT has had one of the most distinguished careers-  as well as his trio of albums with Rainbow and stay in Purple, he collaborated with Yngwie Malmsteen,  made  several solo albums and has his new Rated X project,  not to mention others peoples projects he has sung on like Sunstorm. However, other than a brief snatch of ‘Deja Vu’ in response to a request, this history was barely represented.

I feel he misread the mood of the audience and while this may have gone down well at a county fair or a casino in the USA, his UK fanbase is more discerning and deserved better.  Shortly after this show his voice gave out and the rest of the tour was cancelled. As and when the dates are rescheduled or if he does future acoustic tours, JLT would do well to remember the old school report ‘must try harder’.

Review and Photos by Andy Nathan

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