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Joanne Shaw Taylor

Artist: Joanne Shaw Taylor, Connor Selby

Venue: Manchester, Royal Northern College Of Music

Date: 17th February 2024


'At the end of the moving song, Taylor did lighten the mood with the quip, “It’s a Blues gig, we’re not here to be happy.'


 

© Haluk Gurer
© Haluk Gurer

Let me preface this review by saying what a magnificent venue the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) is, offering an interrupted view from every seat in the house, plus a great listening experience.


Connor Selby


The large stage, one of the largest black box stages in Manchester, meant that support act Connor Selby looked a little lonely sat front and centre with just his guitar; however, that didn’t prevent him putting on an enjoyable, relaxing thirty-minute set. The majority of the songs were from last year’s self-titled album released on Provogue Records, a fact that Selby was very proud of, sharing a label with some of the all-time Blues greats including Joe Bonamassa, Beth Hart, Kenny Wayne-Shepherd, and Walter Trout to name just a few. He’s not there by luck, having been voted “Young Artist of the Year” at the UK Blues Awards three consecutive years running (2020, 2021, 2022)! Despite the latter, Selby comes across as a very humble guy with an obvious love for the Blues, which he articulated in the song ‘Love Letter To The Blues’. The set concluded with my personal favourite ‘Emily’, which was the liveliest number he played. As much as though I appreciate acoustic music, I do prefer full electric bands; Selby is going on tour with his band in the coming months, and I can recommend checking them out if they play a venue near to you.


Setlist (Spoilers)


Joanne Shaw Taylor


I saw Joanne Shaw Taylor at the Holmfirth Picturedrome a few years ago, but tonight was my first time seeing the UK’s premier Blues Rock guitarist headlining. At just gone 8.30pm, she and her four-piece band strolled on to the stage to warm applause. The set was minimal, no backdrops or pyrotechnics, other than those provided by the lady herself along her fretboard.


‘In The Mood’ from 2019’s ‘Reckless Heart’ opus got the show off to a fine start. The sound and mix, as I’d hoped and expected from a venue of this stature, were superb and remained that way through the sixteen-song set, spanning an hour-and-three-quarters. Taylor took the time on several occasions to address the very well-behaved audience. Indeed, she asked for the lights to be turned up so she could see our faces instead of playing into the darkness. She recalled that the last time she played the RNCM, she set the fire alarm off three songs in, but blamed the latter on the late, great Bernie Marsden, who was my own personal introduction to the Blues via his tenure in Whitesnake. The crowd were very quiet, too quiet for JST’s liking; however, I think it was just a sign of utmost respect for her and her band.


The first part of the show as proliferated with songs from ‘The Blues Album’, you know, the ones with the long titles; ‘Keep On Loving Me’, ‘If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody’, ‘Can’t You See What You’re Doing To Me’, and ‘If That Ain’t A Reason’. JST’s soulful drawl is ideally suited to the Blues and is juxtaposed to her Black Country speaking voice. The pacing of the evening was well-balanced, as emphasised by the foot tappin’ ‘Dying To Know’, followed by new single ‘Wild Love’, from her forthcoming new album ‘Heavy Soul’, due for release in June 2024. Midway through the evening JST stopped for a five-minute narrative surrounding the single ‘Won’t Be Fooled Again’ and subsequent video release.


Dressed all in black, with bell bottoms revealing a pair of white cowboy boots, JST’s trademark long blonde hair fell across her face as she soloed during each song. I’d just made a note how she did not overextend her songs like most of her contemporaries, when she launched into a ten-minute-plus, epic rendition of ‘Watch Em Burn’ from 2009 debut album ‘White Sugar’! Amusingly, she had to get her guitar tech to bring back the guitar she’d just exchanged as the new one was tuned in the wrong key for ‘Diamonds In The Dirt’.


It was wonderful to see a musician smile so much whilst performing on stage, although the mood became a little more sombre with ‘Fade Away’, written about her mum, who she sadly lost to cancer at the age of fifty-seven years. JST knew everyone at some stage would go through grief and she found writing songs helped with the process, but urged others who were struggling to get professional help. Classy act. The song was very emotional and brought back memories to me personally of my own dad, who passed away nearly ten years ago. At the end of the moving song, Taylor did lighten the mood with the quip, “It’s a Blues gig, we’re not here to be happy.”


The excellent pairing of ‘Runaway’ and ‘Sweet Little Lies’ lightened the atmosphere once again. Taylor affectionately introduced her band, Joey (guitar), Phil (keyboards), Eric Savage (drums), and bass player from Puerto Rico whose name I sadly missed, before concluding the main set with the brilliant ‘Bad Love’. The five musicians left the stage briefly before returning for a one-song encore, the appropriately titled ‘Going Home’. JST appreciatively thanked the crowd for coming out to see her and listening to her music. It’s hard to believe that such a talented and confident musician has previously suffered from anxiety. We sat in our seats whilst the auditorium cleared, which meant we got to see JST’s miniature dachshund “Hank” take to the stage, but alas no rendition of ‘Hound Dog’.


Setlist (Spoilers)


 

Review: Mark Donnelly. Photos by: Haluk Gurer

 


 

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