Town Hall Birmingham
So which Joan do you want? Delicate singer-songwriter? Tick? Confident popstar? Tick Agressive blues shredder? Again, um, tick. So a show of parts, all mixed and melded, with Joan alone on stage, 3 guitars, and a keyboard. Occasional backing tracks were to used, a screen told us, which later, as is the vogue, projected appropriate images to the songs, a bit like the OGWT videos of yore.
Self-deprecating from the start, making cracks about (her) age and (deteriorating) memory, she was keen to remind how long she has been in the limelight, kicking off with a song from her first LP, from all of 1973, strumming gently on her beloved blue guitar. And it was delightful. Another song and she moved to the keys for an exemplary “Different Kind of Love”, a subject the mature and largely female audience seemed to appreciate. And so it went, with oldies like “Rosie” interspersed with medium oldies, “All the way From America”, and all was dandy. But then she mentioned the B word, “Into the Blues”, her recent foray into hardcore blues, reminding the audience how well it had done in the US Blues charts, staright into number one, no less. I’m not sure whether the audience gulped, but I did, this being a, shall we say, difficult LP and the song chosen was no different. Thankfully, to break the ice there was then a somewhat cheesy and self-adulatory slide show, showing her moving from Brummy streeet-gamine to the company of kings. (Well Paul McCartney and Nelson Mandela, amongst others.) But still the applause kept coming and her grin wider. “Heres the only song some of you know” and into a slightly rushed sounding “Love and Affection”, before another blues workout, greeted by tumbleweed on mention of it’s title. I think this may have riled her a little, as suddenly the volume and distortion cranked up high, and she belted out “Drop the Monkey” and “Me Myself I” as if demented, a glint appearing, I thought, in her eye, for the disrespect to her later work. Thankfully it was then time for an encore, but without the palaver, she said, of having to go off stage and return, when she could mop up the applause face to face. True to expectation, this was the traditional singalong through “Willow”. Time to go…………
Mature for sure. Adoring and faithful, even tho’ there were many moments of bemusement for many. Not sure whether she was the only afro-caribbean in the room, perhaps a surprise on her home ground.
Town Hall is a fabulous gig these days, the memories of it’s old vile acoustics of yesteryear long forgotten. If it weren’t for Symphony Hall, it would be the best gig in town. (And was, I wonder, Joan miffed that she wasn’t there?)
It made me think..
For so long the shoo-in for best female performer at award ceremonies, her undoubted flower has somehow faded, maybe by comparison with the legions of women now who make music? I don’t know, but I was left a tad disappointed tonight. Maybe she just needed a band to off-set her?