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FIFTY3 FRIDAYS: LIVE AT INDIGO AT THE O2


Another day, another venue. For the second week running Fifty3Fridays focuses on live music this time coming to you from Indigo at the O2. It might be dwarfed by its neighbouring arena but the 2,750-capacity theatre is impressive in its own right. A broad, modern auditorium, its ground floor seating is arranged in semi-circular fashion and it also has a sizeable balcony space. As you might expect, the venue is blessed with a fine sound system and with no less than four bars, it’s not the kind of place you ought to have to queue five-deep for a drink.

All photos of Connor Selby and Joanne Shaw Taylor at Indigo at the O2 by Kevin England


Last Thursday the venue hosted a night of blues rock featuring a mid-20’s year old supporting an artiste who seems to have been around for a long time yet had only just celebrated her 39th birthday two days earlier; this in a genre arguably ruled by veterans and legends. Opening the show was Essex native Connor Selby, voted Young Artist of the Year at the UK Blues Awards for three consecutive years (2020 - 2022). With a self-titled studio album under his belt, the youthful blues man has already supported some of the biggest names in rock and blues, so it was no great surprise that he appeared self-assured stepping out tonight to open for Joanne Shaw Taylor.


Armed with a three-piece band to back his lead guitar and vocals, Connor cut a dapper figure onstage with the look of a young Paul Weller while his keys player was replete with a Gilbert O’Sullivan style cloth cap. His five-song set had a classic blues feel to it yet with sufficient variety to keep things fresh. He opened with the careworn “Falling In Love Again” with old school Hammond organ sound to the fore, guitar solo and neat call and response interplay between guitar and keys at the end. Despite the odd bass distortion, the middle song, “The Truth Comes Out Eventually”, stood out for Connor’s eloquent solo and its spacious rendering alongside lyric sentiments of staying true to yourself. The set closed with shades of Stevie Winwood via the rockier blues of “Emily” and met with a good reception from those who had made it into the auditorium to catch the support set. It was well worth their time.


Since being discovered by The Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart when she was just 16, Joanne Shaw Taylor has built a prodigious reputation as an outstanding blues guitarist, singer and songwriter. A native of Wednesbury in the West Midlands, possibly better known as the signpost on Junction 9 of the M6, she has put her birth town on the map in a career which has seen 11 albums since her self-released debut in 2008. She grew up listening to guitar greats like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Albert Collins and Jimi Hendrix in her teens and is clearly a force to be reckoned with both as a recording artiste and live act. Tonight, she was accompanied by a hot and seasoned US band comprising guitarist Shane Sanders, bassist Steve Lehane and Phil Whitfield on keys, all of whom contributed backing vocals, with the line up completed by powerhouse drummer, Eric Savage.


Kicking off aptly with “In the Mood”, the band took no prisoners while the front lady weighed in with prodigious solos in a confident opener only tempered by a touch of reserve from tonight’s crowd. Maybe they were just seated a little too comfortably as Joanne cracked on, putting her stamp on an extended jam around the signature riff during the Otis Rush cover, “Keep On Lovin' Me”, and scarcely glancing at the Telecaster fretboard as her flying fingers did the work on her own “All My Love”. That early crowd distance was quickly melting.

Her version of James Ray’s “If You Gotta Make a Fool of Somebody” showcased her Southern States-infused soulful Black Country vocal drawl while the hypnotic guitar riff enlivened a blues standard – Albert King’s “Can't You See What You're Doing to Me” - providing a bedrock for the verses and giving way to subtle changes in the solos. Joanne’s dry wit came out in between songs as she gave the pro photographers the boot for overstaying the first three songs rule, spelt out her indifference to merchandise and said she was not sure when her new album was coming out because “I won’t be buying it!” She hit something of a purple patch mid set with a trio of songs that really stood out for their points of difference, beginning with one from that forthcoming album, Heavy Soul, “Wild Love”. Blessed with a funky riff and aided by some fine backing vocals, the track skilfully blended blues with pop elements and yet again featured a terrific guitar solo.

Introducing “Won't Be Fooled Again” from 2022's Nobody's Fool recorded with iconic guitarist Joe Bonamassa, Joanne described it as her attempt at an 80s pop song, adding that the track is more Bonnie Raitt than Milli Vanilli, though you might need to be Ken Bruce to remember them. The Bonnie Raitt parallel was spot on as she sounds much akin to her on this. It is a top song with great immediacy and some fine lead lines traded between the guitars.

Joanne then switched to the rich tones of a Gibson Les Paul for the older song, “Watch 'em Burn”; more of a standard dark ‘n’ dirty blues elevated by some wonderfully spacey guitar effects further in. The ensemble playing was note perfect yet seemed intuitive throughout. It got the greatest crowd response of the night so far, turning into quite a tour de force. I would have been tempted to close the set with it, though there were still plenty of jewels left in tonight’s locker.

A poignant moment arrived when Joanne stripped things back to acoustic guitar for a tender tribute to her mother who sadly died in 2013 from ovarian cancer, “Fade Away,” accompanied simply and tellingly by Phil’s soft piano and Shane’s picked electric guitar. Soulful and affectionate, Joanne’s vocal shone beacon-like as her letter to her mother unfolded, expressing the grief that never really goes away and is just masked as you try to come to terms with loss. It was an emotive and fitting tribute through which you could feel the empathy from the audience.

The set concluded with the skittish melody of “Runaway”, followed by “Sweet Lil Lies” – a mid-tempo rocker the second cut from Heavy Soul – and the faster paced “Bad Love” with keyboardist Phil giving it some welly to match Joanne’s soaring shredding. There was still time for an encore, fittingly in the shape of the dirty blues riff of “Going Home” from the early White Sugar album; Joanne’s electric sounding as resonant as a National guitar at times. She left school at 15 to become a blues guitarist – a great career choice she quipped after musing about whether we’d ever be back watching live music post-Covid. Well, we are and tonight exceedingly glad about it too.



FIFTY3 FRIDAYS SPOTIFY PLAYLIST FEBRUARY 2024

Finally… on the first Friday of each month, I publish a Playlist on Spotify which includes all the songs featured in this column over the previous month. Not just that, but with the application of chronology too! Our Fifty3 Fridays Spotify Playlist February 2024 includes all 21 songs from the month’s Fifty3 Fridays. It opens with the adorable “Clean Cut” by Charm of Finches, reaching a suitably conclusion with the brilliantly voiced “Blue Lights” by Hannah Rose Platt. Just the one substitution: Francesca Guerra’s “Seasons” is still a demo so have added “Can’t Stop The Rain” as an able deputy.

 

Follow me on Spotify at TonyHardy53 for 3 years’ worth of these monthly playlists plus more to exercise your bandwidth.



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FIFTY3 champions

outstanding new music

through Fifty3 Fridays and

occasional features 

 

Music is a great passion of mine. In my teenage years I was an avid record collector and concert goer. Stints as a booking agent, running folk clubs, promoting gigs and even a crack at artiste management followed. While it never became my main occupation, music was always on my personal radar.

 

In the past 15 years I have written for leading US music website  Consequence and breakthrough  site, BestNewBands. I am a judge for Glastonbury Festival's Emerging Talent Competition and have reviewed the festival for both sites. I am now pleased to curate my very own music site.

 

Nothing gives me greater pleasure than unearthing great, original new music and championing independent musicians. You’ll find many of them on this site alongside the occasional legend of times past and I hope they will bring  you as much joy as they give me.

Tony Hardy

UPCOMING GIGS 

 

Selected dates in the London area:

Sun 21 Apr: Jewelia, The Lexington, London N1

Tue 23 Apr: Silk Cinema + Maya Lane, The Half Moon, Putney, London SW15

Thu 2 May: Andrew Maxwell Morris + Hallworth + Paper Anthem, The Bedford, Balham

Sat 11 May: Emily Barker, Banquet Records, Kingston upon Thames

Fri 17 May: Katharine Priddy, Union Chapel, London N1

banquetrecords.com: See the Events page for all live shows in Kingston

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