Sean Taylor
Blues in the Bar
The Georgian Theatre
Stockton on Tees

Sunday, 12th February 2023

Having travelled from his London base for a trio of northern dates, first in York, then Durham City and finishing up with a late Sunday afternoon gig at The Georgian Theatre, Stockton, Sean Taylor was primed and ready to go thanks to a classy, well received set of original, thoughtful tunes by Hartlepool’s JP Riggall.
‘Anxiety Blues’ he calls it, and I for one enjoyed it, especially the track Magic River. 
It was an early start –  4pm, which judging by the full room is something that could well catch on in these parts.
Sean Taylor, we are informed has been nominated for a UK Blues award but maybe describing him as a Blues artist does him a dis-service.
He’s got so much more than ‘just’ Blues in his tank and he tells us as much early in his set. His influences are wide and varied and this is evidenced as throughout he treats us to a rich blend of Blues, Folk, Americana, Psychedelia, Jazz, Hip-Hop with a smattering of Hard-House and even Classical to boot.

Sean has recently released a live album and the first four songs this afternoon are lifted in track order from Sean Taylor Band Live; opener, Number 49, is followed up by This is England, Life Goes On and Texas Boogie.
He tells us that This is England is his alternative national anthem and it’s clear he’s not happy with the direction of English travel. It starts with the line 
‘Born and raised under Maggie’s cane
and proceeds to take us on a hip-hop influenced spoken-word trawl through some of the low points of what is getting on for 45 years of turbo-consumerism and greed that certainly has it’s roots in Thatcherism.
It’s a fine piece of social commentary, and I get the sense that the folks present today are on the same page as the troubadour in our midst. He goes on to re-dress the balance with the laid back Life Goes On, which is a more positive, individualistic take on the trials and tribulations of the everyday experience.
To my mind, he’s getting philosophical and telling us to be in the moment and enjoy life. Judging by the reaction of the crowd they are very much enjoying life this evening and the JJ Calesque Texas Boogie does exactly what it says, namechecking Stevie Ray Vaughn, Lightning Hopkins and Townes Van Zandt as the song sonically weaves it’s feelgood way around the packed room. 

Sean’s between-song stories are full of insight and wisdom that transcends his 39 years.
He tells us how, at the age of 16 he went to Glastonbury Festival for the first time and returned transformed; immediately giving up playing football, and asked to take a drugs test before proceeding to immerse himself in music – this intro cleverly led into [his description] a football song – it turned out to be his take on the Liverpool FC fans anthem ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’.
The song itself began life in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel and as we all know has since taken on a life of its own but I sense not many folks would have the guts or creativity to re-imagine it in the haunting, dreamy way Taylor does. I suspect by doing so he’s trying to build a metaphorical bridge between lovers of the performing arts and followers of the beautiful game and I must say the album version, with added percussion and base is well worth a listen. 
For me it works perfectly.

Through his song-writing he invites the audience into his world, which appears to be something of a live dichotomy; on the one hand lamenting the way the world around us seems to be spinning out of control, to turning that despair on it’s head and singing of the joys of just being alive, such as on the second of two songs he plays on piano – The Beat Goes On. 
It’s an infectious boogie-woogie laden, biographical tale of his experiences of being on stage and losing himself in the joy of moment.
Listening to him, I sense that, like all of us, Sean Taylor has good days and bad days and much like those of us who love music, it’s primarily that which lifts him up when he feels down.
I certainly felt enriched when he played the beautiful ‘Heart of the Ocean’ on piano, his words poetic and his musicianship drifting off into Classical territory. 
He’s an engaging performer and I loved the hypnotic, psychedelic trance he builds during an extended version of ‘So Fine’. Taylor sounds like he’s playing three guitars at once, such is the wall of sound he manages to conjure out of his 6 string acoustic.

After just over an hour he is returned to the stage by  way of rapturous applause for one final song.
First though, he tells us that his favourite clip of music-related film is when the crowd at Woodstock 69 rises to their feet as Richie Havens sings the final song of his set – Freedom. 
Sean Taylor proceeds to cover the tune and remarkably for those of us privileged to be here he manages to summon up the spirit of Woodstock and hippy idealism as the audience rises as one on a winters afternoon in Teesside and joins him in a renewed call, not only for freedom but you get the feeling, for some much needed social justice too.  

William Graham

2 thoughts on “Sean Taylor GEORGIAN THEATRE, STOCKTON on TEES

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