Dan Patlansky + Arielle
Tuesday 12th April 2022
The Garage, Highbury Corner, London
Award-winning South African singer-songwriter and guitarist, Dan Patlansky, completed his 10-date UK tour last Tuesday at London's Islington Garage, in support of the release of his 10th studio album, 'Shelter Of Bones', in late February by Virgin Music Label and Artist Services, with special guest American singer songwriter and Brian May guitar protege, Arielle.
This is the first tour Patlansky has undertaken since his 'Perfection Kills' UK tour in 2018, which was the follow up to 2016’s critically acclaimed 'Introvertigo' album. Indeed, the massive break from his constant touring life gave Patlansky the rare opportunity to work on many aspects of his music and craft, which before lockdown he would normally not have time to look at.
Similarly, the last time we saw Arielle was at London's Water Rats back in August 2018, and unbelievably, this New Jersey born artist who built her own handmade Two-Tone guitar when she was 16 years old, who studied at both the Musicians Institute in Hollywood and London’s Institute of Contemporary Music Performance, and also appeared in the 2008 West End London production of 'We Will Rock You', is now on the wrong side of 30!
Indeed, Arielle is a 21st century Classic Rock Folk artist, who recorded half of her latest May 2021 album, ‘Analog Girl In A Digital World’, album in digital, and the other half in tape, to try and capture the impact music of the 60’s and 70’s had on her! That album also featured Arielle's new customised signature guitar, 'The BMG Arielle', released by Brian May Guitars based on that original handmade Two-tone.
In an atmospheric setting, Arielle made her way on to the stage to warm applause, from an obviously expectant crowd, accompanied by her cowboy hatted bass guitarist Devin North, who also played on her last album. Dispensing with any formalities, the pair launched straight into the Blues of 'Voices In My Head', that despite being released independently on her 2018 'Mind Lion' EP, featured on over 11 Billboard charts for eight weeks. Her immediately engaging vocal tone was very reminiscent of Chantel McGregor, and making the most of their brief half-hour set, the standing Arielle and seated and booted Devin, moved straight on to the, rockier, toe-tapping, 'Somewhere Slow', the first taster of the night from her forthcoming 2022 studio album.
Switching to an acoustic guitar, Arielle finally introduced us to her fellow Austin, Texas resident, her great vocal on 'You're Still A Man', from ‘Analog Girl In A Digital World’, very much well received by an appreciative Garage audience. Although, in a departure from the advance setlist, the fact that a cover of Queen mentor, Dr. May's, 'Tie Your Mother Down', replaced 'I'd Rather Be In England' (another from 'Analog Girl in a Digital World'), thankfully did not result in Highbury and Islington's finest revolting, on the contrary, this cracker, with Arielle naturally grabbing that BMG Arielle, even got Devin off of his chair!
Talking of her influences, such as Joni Mitchell and Tom Petty, the Americana acoustic 'Weakness For You' (another from her forthcoming studio album), not only demonstrated a crystal clear vocal, but also Arielle's evident maturity as a performer. Two further songs from the forthcoming album followed, the acoustic, '73', all about her love of an older man, her VW Orange camper van and that orange is one of her favourite colours (seriously), and the sad, but tender electric 'Albatross' vibe of 'The Way You Look at Me'.
"Thanks for having us", as the Texans closed out with the acoustic Bangra/sitar vibe intro to the Irish style jig of 'Magick', taking us back to her 2017 'Interim' EP, with Arielle's amazing vocal octave range making us all thankful, for once, that we were drinking from plastic glasses! A thoroughly enjoyable appetiser, not only for Patlansky's set, but also for Arielle's forthcoming album and her future tours with both a longer set and a full band, hopefully including the outstanding North.
The fifth and last time we saw Dan Patlansky was in November 2018, just up the road at Islington's O2 Academy. Indeed, touring costs for Dan's international backing band were prohibitive back then, and now over three years down the line, Covid has obviously made things even worse. Step forward on to The Garage stage, Dan's power trio, and the familiar face of Tom Swann on bass guitar plus new boy Ben Matthews on drums. But no keyboards, compared to that night in November, when Patlansky was on a roll and Perfection Killed.
Our recent review of 'Shelter Of Bones' described it as "a really strong set of cleverly arranged tunes that reveal something new on each repeated listen". Suffice to say that 50% of the album would count towards tonight's set. Kicking off with the frenetically paced, unreleased warm-up track, 'Lift Off', it did exactly what it said on the tin, with Patlansky going, not for the last time on the night, all SRV on his Stratocaster, with numerous Garage heads immediately boppin' up and down in front of us.
As promised, a trio of new 'Shelter Of Bones' tracks, then took centre stage, beginning with album opener 'Soul Parasite', and a classic punchy Rock riff solo plus growling lyrics from Patlansky. Poignantly, Dan broke off from this breathtaking opening to reflect with everyone on the last couple of bullshit years, introduced the band and had a pop at the political landscape. Cue the pure Blues of 'Snake Oil City', that pointed the finger at corrupt politicians, with its up-tempo shuffle pace, complemented by Patlansky's sumptuous clean soloing to a spellbound crowd. Dedicated to his wife, who was also in the audience, Dan's very personal ballad, 'Lost', despite the absence of album producer Tom Gatza's keys, was more than compensated by yet another outstanding Patlansky guitar solo.
A good demographic of both young and old were then pleasingly reacquainted with the powerful raw Blues Rock feel of 2016's ‘Introvertigo’, and its very first more commercially minded single and upbeat Blues of ‘Stop The Messin’, before the trio returned back to the new album and 'Bad Soul'. However, the highlight for mine of the night, ironically, was released 18 years ago. Although, 40 year-old Dan confided that the classic 12-bar Blues heaven of 'Heart Of Stone', taken from his 'True Blues' album, was not only influenced by his parents, but was also written a few years before its release. Indeed, this had everything, including brilliant drumming from Matthews, another awesome vocal and guitar solo from the grimacing Patlansky, that deservedly drew applause from the mesmerised audience mid-song. Amazing.
‘Hounds Loose’, released as a single taster for the new album, was another take on the old Robert Johnson Blues theme of selling your soul to the devil and dealing with Hell Hounds, that fittingly featured some more scorching lead playing from Dan that again brought Stevie Ray Vaughan to mind in its intensity. Another oldie, was another goodie. The story of 'Big Things Going Down' from Patlansky's 2009's 'Move My Soul' has to be heard to be believed. Long story short - after agreeing out of the blue for a guy to have permission to use the track simply for a weird photo collage - that video subsequently attracted over 3 million hits and helped put Dan on the musical map. It's no surprise really, given this perfectly constructed track of slow, building minor Blues, that smacks of SRV and Gilmour.
Dan’s 2014 album ‘Dear Silence Thieves’ then got its only look in, with the pounding, up-tempo and darn catchy ‘Backbite’, a welcome opportunity for two overdue solos from the excellent Swann and Matthews. Patlansky's fret-skills then went into overdrive on the SRV medley cover of 'Scuttle Buttin’/Say What', before an absorbing evening was rounded off with one of the highlights of the new album, ‘I’ll Keep Trying’, a beautiful ballad with a sweet, restrained vocal performance from Patlansky, not to mention some gorgeous licks.
With just a dozen songs aired in 90 minutes, this was indeed a night of quality not quantity. However, playing devil's advocate, the flip side of this is choosing your set list in the future, given the undoubted quality of Patlansky's back-catalogue, plus whether you are restricted playing as a three-piece instead of a four. Ultimately, a nice problem to have, but with Dan's latest album three years in the making, we had indeed waited a long time to witness this rich collection of strong, powerful tunes live, that further showcased the vocal and instrumental talents of this South African musician. And we were not disappointed. Dan continues his European tour in the Netherlands from this Thursday 21st April.