Joanne Shaw Taylor - LIVE: Islington Academy 2011

Diamonds In The Dirt Tour
London - May 31
Capacity 800

Spending time touring relentlessly and gradually getting noticed as one of the hot properties on the British blues scene really started to pay off for Joanne Shaw Taylor when she was selected to open Black Country Communion's debut concerts in December 2010, and some of front-man Glenn Hughes own solo dates in 2011.

These stints acknowledged her rock cross-over appeal as well, while runs opening for the likes of The Hoax, and headlining treks around North America have also been part of a remarkable couple of years for Joanne. No wonder then that her next headlining tour of the UK would see her at slightly larger venues like Islington Academy.

Members of Joanne's opening band often form her own backing band, regularly utilising Virgil & The Accelerators front-man/guitarist Virgil McMahon on bass and his drumming brother Gabriel last year, and tonight continued in that vein with Joanne's regular US opening band P-A-U-L's singer/guitarist Paul Lamb playing bass along with drummer Layla Hall, having opened the show with their own outfit.

P-A-U-L play a gritty, heavy blues rock which focuses almost entirely on namesake Lamb's guitar histrionics and gravelly, Sardinas-esque vocals. In actuality his performance seems to be more about throwing the right shapes than playing the right things and although there's plenty of immediacy about his riffs and songs, there's little substance. They make for a fun, lively opening act, but don't yet seem to have enough high quality material to convincingly make the step up.

By contrast Joanne's sincerity is never in question when she performs. Nor is her enjoyment. With a beaming smile for the entire show she split the set more or less evenly between songs from her debut album White Sugar and new disc Diamonds In The Dirt, throwing in her version of Jimi Hendrix classic Manic Depression as well. Setlist-wise though the most unexpected inclusion was Shiver Inside, one of her oldest songs that has so far not made it onto either album.

Apart from the obvious traits which have made her popular in some quarters - her mature, dusky vocals and for the most shallow of fans the fact that she's a girl playing the blues - Joanne's longevity lies in her high-energy, electric performances and her first-class player. While some fans may be sucked in by something as superficial as her gender, the reality is Joanne is one hell of a guitar playing, actually a more exciting player than some of the other young blues artists currently finding a higher level of success, who writes good songs and performs them as passionately as anyone on the scene.

Performances like tonight prove that Joanne should be bigger than she is, but taking everyone's current favourite blues story of Joe Bonmassa as an example, Joanne's fans will actually selfishly hope she doesn't make it that far so they can continue to pay sensible ticket prices, not have to put up with the trendy fans (it's consistenly disappointing how many of these there are in a genre like blues which has a reputation for being so genuine), and see her in smaller venues where she really excels.

“ sincerity is never in question ”

Setlist: Going Home / Let It Burn / Time Has Come / Watch 'em Burn / Dead and Gone / Diamonds In The Dirt / Manic Depression / Jump That Train / Kiss The Ground Goodbye / Shiver Inside / Bones / Blackest Day / Goin' Down // Black Country Soul

Photo(s): Andy Lye

Written by Andy Lye
More: 2011, Blues, Gigs,

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