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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.    


Unknown said...

As ever an excellent review, Neil!
It makes me really want to have been there - her voice is like raw honey. And I'm glad her humour came across - she's always been very amusing in interviews I've heard - I suppose you have to have a good sense of humour growing up in the West Midlands - LOL!

Vanessa said...

Spot on review Neil, I certainly think the pre-recorded 'enhancements' were not needed. Thankfully there were very few. Joans mastery of the guitar with her fab percussive style could easily have carried her through, and her divine voice, richer and more emotionally charged with maturity. A rare treat indeed. Great to see you and Val and thanks so much for the tickets. Lots of love Ness x

Nature Strikes Back said...

Joan as rock guitar goddess was a complete surprise and a brilliant aspect of the performance too. Put me in mind of Rosetta Tharpe at times.

Anonymous said...

Comparing her to Charlie Pride is a bit naff.

Glad you caught the show.

me, myself, biggles.

Jonathan O'Dea said...

Although I was only between the ages of 8 and 10 when Joan Armatrading became stuck in my mind, her sound never left me. Her music was played on Irish radio when I was growing up there and she prove to be very popular in Ireland.

Its true when good art is good, its good. To try and describe good art is not easy, but I think Neil you sumed up Joan's raw talent in away which is as poetic as Joan's music.

Not realising until now I was only 1 when Joan realised 'Love and Affection', but this was the song which I have always associate with Joan. Thanks Neil for press ganging me into writing a comment because you reintroduced me back to the art of Joan, which is nice.

Neil Partrick said...

Many thanks to Silva, Vanessa, Ms Strikes Back, Anonymous and Jonathan for your comments, they're really appreciated,especially as the majority of you weren't "paid" with a ticket! Criticism noted, reference to Rosetta well-made, as were observations on Joan's voice, and I am delighted that it provoked some nice childhood memories too.