Monday, November 24, 2014

Joan Armatrading live at Bexhill's De La Warr Pavilion, England

Rock’s Charlie Pride is a born-again black artist.

I lost touch with Joan Armatrading nearly three decades ago. In 1985 she seemed firmly planted in the white musical bombast of the time. Me Myself I, the last number by her that I paid any attention to, was a brilliant piece of overproduced pop-rock stomp. Last night at Bexhill's dlwp her devotees and enthusiasts were treated to a one woman seminar on Joan as major league black performer with a rightful, but not sufficiently acknowledged, place in the international music hall of fame.

She gave us the photos to prove it.

She did raw and accomplished blues, and subtler jazz, guitar. She sat at the piano and emoted like a latter day Nina Simone.

Joan's voice is as powerful as when she started but is now possessed of a richer, maturer tone. 

There were some occasional lyrical lapses. However Joan gave a flawless performance of numbers that ranged from the very good to the quite exquisite.

If there is one complaint, it is that Joan’s self-styled “last major world tour”, and first solo one, is evidently a low-budget affair. If she had been genuinely unplugged, the rawness that worked so well on her blues and balladeer numbers would only have enhanced her performance of the now classic Love and Affection.

It was still a barnstormer, but the pre-recorded synth strings and cheesy sax could have ruined it were it not for the sheer emotional heft and powerful hook lines that inevitably made it a winner. More or less devoid of “enhancements”, Down to Zero and The Weakness in Me, two comparably powerful torch ballads, were better performances on the night.  

Joan does great dead-pan too. She joked, self-effacingly, about pics of herself with better known performers, and introduced her encore so that she could get off the stage according to her schedule.

Joan closed the concert with an early favourite, Willow, and, oddly, gave the audience the last word as she played along to the few who felt confident enough to sing it back to her.

This gig though was an object lesson by Joan in “why I matter”.

She is of course preaching to the converted. 

Let’s hope she once again gets the attention she deserves from national and international media.