Home Gigs Gig Review: Joanne Shaw Taylor – UK Tour 2022 With support from Jon Allen Tramshed, Cardiff

Gig Review: Joanne Shaw Taylor – UK Tour 2022 With support from Jon Allen Tramshed, Cardiff

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Review by Gary Spiller for MPM

Some three and a half years since last playing Cardiff’s Tramshed the critically acclaimed Joanne Shaw Taylor, rightfully lauded as a leading light of the British blues scene, makes a most welcome return to one of the Welsh capital’s premium mid-sized venues.

It’s been a challenging couple of years gig-wise for the Nashville-based bluestress, but faced with multiple postponements and cancellations, to her absolute credit, the Midlander has recorded two studio albums of high repute, both of which have smashed through the top of the scales.

Having toured 2021’s Billboard Blues Chart-topping ‘The Blues Album’ in April JST has returned to her native lands with further new material under her belt. With an extended run of dates, running into Mid-December, Taylor is celebrating the recent release of ‘Nobody’s Fool’ that is garnering deserved rave reviews.

It’s with much expectancy we head over the border into South Wales – our home from home – as Cardiff is handed the accolade of opening night of the tour. Trains on the South Wales main line rattle alongside in the dark whilst a queue steadily grows in advance of doors.

Nestling snuggly amongst the terraced housing on the west banks of the River Taff the Tramshed, with its eleven brick gables each housing a louvred oculus and a pair of semi-circular windows, is now firmly established as a leading light in the realms of Cardiff’s live entertainment since its opening in late 2015.

Tonight’s support comes in the eloquent form of folky singer-songwriter Jon Allen. “It’s John without the ‘h’,” he wryly notes one track in; apparently, it’s been causing no end of issues on social media. Striding on virtually unnoticed Allen seemingly takes a good percentage of the Tramshed crowd by surprise with his stealthy ninja-like prowess.

Diving straight into the rootsy blues of ‘How Long’ the Winchester-born troubadour captivates from the off. With five albums to his credit journeyman Allen, described as “a musicians’ musician,” possesses a definite Rod Stewart roughed edge to his David Gray-like vocals. His breakthrough came performing on Later With Jools Holland which has led to touring with the likes of KT Tunstall, Mark Knopfler, and Seal, furthering his musical cause.

Although just 20 minutes in length by the end of his allotted time Allen has the Tramshed on board. Concluding with the Dylan-esque set-closer ‘Dead Man’s Suit’ Allen wraps up a six-track cameo reaping a deserved hearty response.

Aside from the opening track lifted from last year’s ‘….meanwhile’ Allen shines the spotlight upon his first two albums. The foot-stomping ‘Bad Penny’ is paired with the tenderness of soothing ballad ‘Take Me To Heart,’ both numbers endearingly extracted from debut long-player ‘Dead Man’s Suit.’

The second coupling of Allen’s set is, quite appropriately, dealt from his second release ‘Sweet Defeat.’ The melancholic haunting of ‘No One Gets Out Of Here Alive’ serves as an ethereal anthesis to the bluesy upbeat ‘Lucky I Guess.’ Allen has gone down well with the JST faithful, and all bodes well for the tour for this likeable musician.

Shouldering ‘Junior’ her trusted Fender Telecaster – a battle-scarred 1966 Esquire – Joanne Shaw Taylor and her band file onto the darkened Tramshed stage. The scene is set, the mood crackles with anticipation as the howling, storming blues of Peter Green’s ‘Stop Messin’ Round’ is unleashed. There’s zero fuss, it’s purely about the depth of soul herein; bathed in dim blue lighting Taylor stuns with an electrifying solo.

Sultry yet with a funky aura Otis Rush’s ‘Keep On Loving Me’ keeps the blues juggernaut rolling with Taylor’s smouldering smoky vocals fringed with an edgy huskiness.

With a swift “Thank you very much” Taylor acknowledges the crowd before healthily proportioned of southern charm delivers a delicious 12 bar boogied ‘Nobody’s Fool’ taking 70s Quo and dropping them in the Tennessee heartlands. The title track of her eighth, and most recent, studio album is well received.

Looking out into the crowd Taylor smiles “This is my first time back in Wales since that thing happened.” She recollects her first gig in the Welsh capital at a social club called the Dragon. “I know it was a social club” she jokes “I had to break after 45 minutes for a raffle!” Shades of Phoenix Nights swim about in my head as I attempt to visualize this virtuoso blues musician playing a social club.

Following the brief initial foray into her latest album Taylor returns to 2021’s ‘The Blues Album’ for a few numbers. Given that’s there’s been scant opportunity to savour these tracks live it’s a route most welcome to hear these interpretations.

Blues ballad ‘If You’ve Gotta Make a Fool of Somebody’ sees Taylor gripping her mic stand tightly to explore the soulful depths of her sensuous voice in the early choruses before returning to ‘Junior’ to trade commodious licks and riffs as she chases the stars.

Tribute is paid to Albert King’s ‘Can’t You See What You’re Doing to Me’ with the cascading, tumbling emotions of a slowed down Baker, Bruce, and Clapton jam. Reworked into a heading-nodding blues rocker ‘Two Time My Lovin’ is right out of Texas; dissenting with the track’s sentiments regarding second-hand loving Taylor states “That’s bullshit!” Not one soul disagrees.

The tender purest blues of ‘Let Me Down Easy’ seamlessly slip into the boogie of Wilson Pickett’s ‘Three Time Loser.’ With a 12-bar shuffle that primetime Quo would have been proud of those oh-so delectable honky-tonk keys are a highlight.

Layered upon a glorious shuffle the spotlight switches over to Taylor’s original material with the brooding 12 bars of ‘Dyin’ to Know’ freight-training along before Taylor reveals an imagined video for ‘Bad Blood’ that involved US actor Billy Bob Thornton.

Sadly, he’s been busy” cracks Taylor. It’s a blistering track that reflects the searing heat of the Tabernas Desert, most appropriate given that both producers – Joe Bonamassa and Josh Smith – noted a ‘Spaghetti Western feel’ upon first listening.

Announcing her latest single ‘Won’t Be Fooled Again’ to a curiously muted response Taylor pokes crowdwards “Don’t get too excited!” It’s far, far from what JST and her band deserve, it’s opening night of their UK tour and they’re in incendiary form. Whilst there’s absolutely no question of the unwavering loyalty of Taylor’s fanbase it seems that it’s with a subdued reverence, this evening, that it’s being displayed.

The current single’s 21st century take on blues is sprinkled with a 60s Tamla vibe that slips into the earthy riffage of rough-hewn blues rocker ‘Watch ‘Em Burn.’ Finally, the crowd take to their feet to cheer as the track builds to a climatic crescendo with a thundering JST solo.

Switching to her Gibson Les Paul Taylor and her band take the slip road to join the freeway marked destination Led Zeppelin / Whitesnake. ‘I’ve Been Loving You Too Long’ – off 2019’s ‘Reckless Heart’ – has that 70s / 80s blues rock imported Stateside feel with Taylor layering a Gary Moore inspired solo that has a slight impact of Jimmy Page woven into it.

‘Just Another Word’ sees a return to trusted sidekick ‘Junior’ before matters are stripped right back for emotive acoustic ballad ‘Fade Away’ with Taylor accompanied by just keys and rhythm guitar, laced with touches of Bruce Hornsby and Tom Petty within.

Dedicated to her mother Taylor emotes that the track is “A letter from her to me” continuing “Grieving is a process, all they would want is [you] to be happy and make the most of your time here.”

Possessing a reflective humour, she notes, whilst introducing ‘Runaway,’ “Contrary to what one gent wrote in the press I don’t have commitment issues!” Its sparkling firecracker blues are encompassing, and I’m absorbed whole.

The heart-breaking, soul shaking caliginous rocking of ‘Bad Love’ wraps up the main body of the set with the Tramshed baying for more.

More than happy to oblige JST and her musical cohorts return for an inspired brace featuring the southern rock of ‘Going Home’ alongside the shootout blues of ‘Mud Honey.’ Just 15 minutes shy of two hours Taylor has amply demonstrated why she has the heavyweight presences of the likes of Joe Bonamassa, Dave Stewart, and Kenny Wayne Shepherd in her corner.

We’ve been taken from the bourbon-soaked barroom out into the desert plains and back to heartlands of Tennessee and Texas courtesy of the incredible talents of this rampaging blues queen and her sidekicks. It’s been quite the night here in Cardiff.

Photography by Kelly Spiller for MPM

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