This will be Joan Armatrading's last full world tour and it was lovely to see Hall 1 packed to the rafters for the occasion.
After a brief opening set by a Cornish band called The Sea Kings, Joan took to the stage, looking smart in a black ensemble. Her sense of humour was instantly apparent as she thanked us for being in a lovely venue.."I came out here to do something...I can't remember what..do you ever find that you go into a room,come out and still can't remember why you went in? So, what are your plans for this evening?" Laughter was juxtaposed with music for the whole evening, as Joan peppered her set with one liners and wise cracks, ripples of laughter filling the room. "I'm making my way over to the piano now....I've arrived!" And teasing the audience three songs in that she was rather tired and thought she'd end the show there, are just two examples. I warmed to her instantly.
Most refreshing was that Joan didn't make us wait until the end for 'those songs,' instead she dropped them in throughout the set. Every few minutes, it was like unwrapping another surprise as we were treated to another we'd been waiting for.
Throughout the set she accompanied herself, alternating between an assortment of guitars and piano. Also, behind her, was a screen projecting images and clips from her music videos, which gave many of the songs an additional layer of meaning. The richness of her vocals completely belied her sixty four years.
Hard as it was to choose, standout songs for me included All The Way From America, These Are The Times, Drop The Pilot, Love and Affection, Right on Target and Rosie.
An unexpected, rather special, moment, came in the form of her talking us through a slideshow of images from her life in music. She is as good a storyteller as comedian and I could have listened to her all night. Most touching was the gratitude she exhibits for the experiences she has had and people she has met. As she talked about her day with Nelson Mandela, tears filled her eyes. I felt honoured that she shared the story with me and I'm sure I was not alone.
All too soon, the night was over and joking with us again she announced "I'm sure we all know what happens here, the artist leaves the stage, the audience claps and cheers and the artist comes back. I'm just going to stand here while you do all that." She did, with a beaming smile of appreciation on her face which was a joy to see. Ending the night with Willow, she asked us all to sing with her, then to sing a chorus for her. How often do you get to sing someone's song to them?
Suffice it to say it was a wonderful night and I hope I also speak for everyone in Hall 1 when I say thank you Joan and Me Myself and I hope to see you back here very soon.
There are only so many hours in a day and only so many gigs we can get to. We'd really like to expand our national coverage of the live scene as it remains the life blood of music.
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