Joanne Shaw Taylor – Sage Gateshead
October 20 2014
With no support act, Joanne Shaw Taylor and band took to the stage at 8 p.m. on the dot, taking many fans by surprise — some whom were still in the bar and others who hadn’t even arrived. Dressed casually in a black vest, blue jeans, and bright red flat shoes, the Brummie guitar queen didn’t take long to blast out her trademark electric blues to the sparse audience.
Thankfully, by the time Taylor was slowly and funkily re-interpreting Frankie Miller’s “Jealousy”, the hall was about half full (which was still disappointing for someone as popular as her).
After giving her latest album The Dirty Truth a positive review, I was looking forward to tonight’s show. Following the noisefest that I endured the last time I saw her play, I was pleasantly surprised that the three huge speaker stacks were only turned up to seven, meaning we could hear all the intricacies of her guitar playing. There were plenty to go around.
For the young woman has been playing clubs all across Europe since her mid-teens, playing in a venue with pin-sharp acoustics like Sage Gateshead must have been like a dream come true for her. Her default setting is ‘serious’ and tonight she kept breaking into smiles when her solos were rapturously received.
On The Dirty Truth, I was pleased to hear the producer make Taylor’s Marlboro rasp of a voice the feature. Alongside her guitar playing, it was mighty impressive. Sadly (for me), in concert she still fell into the trap of singing loudly at 99 mph. But, with hindsight, this was a rock concert. The overall sound, which was excellent, was far more important than trying to dissect the lyrics. No?
One of the highlights tonight was the tight, complimentary sound that her suspiciously young-looking band had. The keyboards added a Brian Auger feel to several songs, including her signature tune “Diamonds in the Dirt.” That song became slow, hypnotic, and very bluesy, instead of the normal full-force rocker we’re used to.
As well as smiling more than usual, Taylor took the time to tell a couple of stories when introducing songs. The one about being booed for singing a Miley Cyrus song was hilarious, especially as her own song “Wrecking Ball” couldn’t be any further from the popette’s song of the same name, if it had been poetry!
It’s only when you see Joanne Shaw Taylor play live that you get to hear her full range. She slides seamlessly between early Fleetwood Mac-style blues, through a couple of heavy riff-laden songs that reminded me of Humble Pie. Some of her solos were jazz-influenced, proving she is a master craftsman of her chosen instrument.
While it would be all too easy for me to list the guitarists that Taylor has obviously been influenced by, she is developing her own recognizable “style” alongside her well-written songs, which pretty much gives us the full package. On the back of a really mature album, I hope this is the time for Joanne Shaw Taylor to take her place in the International spotlight.