Suggested title: Me Myself I
Rating: *** (three stars)
Longtime local resident Joan Armatrading played to a packed G Live in Guildford last week. Billed as her last major tour, after 42 years, this was a solo gig with none of the quality musicians who have graced Joan’s illustrious recording career.
Asked to comment on her adopted home town for the Surrey Advertiser, Joan said “Guildford is a great place because it’s near to just about everything you want to be near to. It’s close to London, the M25 and natural country beauty. What more could you want?”
Back to the night. The support came from the indie folk of Pipe and Tabor, with beautiful guitar, striking vocals and a glockenspiel so infrequently and sparingly used the number of notes barely reached double figures. This was a well received and polished performance.
They say that nowadays artists are making most of their money from live shows and not recordings, and Joan’s brave decision to tour solo obviously limited her choice of songs, but with a back catalogue of 18 studio albums to pick from, finding suitable material was not a problem.
Songs were delivered with passion and panache, with her vocals being as strong and sumptuous as ever. In These Times, Steppin’ Out, The Weakness In Me and Woncha Come On Home were fabulous. The standout track for this reviewer was Down To Zero from her eponymous 1976 breakthrough album.
There were a couple of occasions when she was left exposed on stage and possibly should have more support during songs like Empty Highway and Me Myself I rather than the use of prerecorded backing tapes. At the end of her set Joan stayed onstage to savour the warm applause of the crowd which certainly appreciated her, before a beautiful version of her gentle classic Willow sent everybody home happy.