As a peerless guitar player Joanne Shaw Taylor boasts a God given talent. Vocally, she veers seamlessly from the visceral to the vestal. As a songwriter, her most affecting work stands tall alongside that of her true blues heroes. And so for the mere mortals massed within Whitley Bay Playhouse it was somewhat reassuring to learn that Taylor still can’t do it all.
When the line between her guitar and the amp began to falter there was no attempt to shirk the mini crisis. And there was no chance of idle small talk to fill an increasingly awkward silence. “I can’t fix this and talk to you at the same time,” admitted Taylor with endearing honesty. Even the mistress of multi-tasking is human, after all.
Otherwise, this was a set underpinned by Taylor’s trademark perfection. No surprise there then. During what seems like a ridiculously short period of time, Taylor has shot from relative obscurity to Joe Bonamassa’s heir apparent. In fact, many would argue that blues rock’s ubiquitous poster boy is already yesterday’s man. At least compared to today’s leading woman.
Taylor has an entirely natural knack for mixing the flamboyant with the understated. There’s no hint of an ego and yet she knows she’s good. Really f*****g good. It would be easy for jealousy to rage in the eyes of those less gifted guitar players living and breathing every note but Taylor is just too cute. She’s as likeable as she is driven. And as unassuming as she is unstoppable.
This was a set peppered with driving anthems, meandering jams and musicianship beyond compare. No Reason To Stay and Going Home might have been the most inappropriate song titles of the night but it was difficult to look beyond two titanic tunes in the search for obvious highlights.
In five months Taylor’s seventh studio album, Reckless Heart, will be released and her latest tour has only served to whet the appetite ahead of what promises to be another significant step towards Bonamassa-esque superstardom. If Wild‘s hotly anticipated follow-up meets expectations then global success is a Shaw thing.
Earlier, another of the British blues scene’s rising stars sought to reinforce a blossoming reputation with a stripped down set of gritty acoustica. Kris Barras – a former cage fighter renowned for his on-stage ferocity – isn’t a natural within the amps-off environment and yet the imposing singer songwriter and his audience quickly warmed to an intimate and intriguing show. Propane, from latest long player, The Divine And Dirty, best illustrated what Barras is all about but for the full picture check out next February’s fully plugged dates.
Exclusive image courtesy of John Burrows