Tuesday 6th November
The Borderline, London
Following her Ladies Of The Blues appearance with the Connie Lush Band and Kyla Brox at London's Under The Bridge in March this year and her London gig way back in September last year, Finnish slide Goddess/guitarist and singer-songwriter Erja Lyytinen triumphantantly returned to The Borderline on Tuesday night as she kicked off her UK tour to support the release of her new studio album in March 2019 on her own record label Tuohi Records. Lyytinen has also recently been nominated for the second year in a row as Guitarist of the Year 2018 by the European Blues Awards and her new album will feature guest performances from both Sonny Landreth and Jennifer Batten (Michael Jackson).
In fact Erja opened up with two songs from her critically acclaimed last album 'Stolen Hearts', released in April last year. 'Lover's Novels' not only saw a text book Lyytinen slide guitar solo but also a great duet with the dreadlocked Juha Kuoppala on hammond organ. "London, England, it's been a great year for us! Are we ready to Rock?" the charismatic Lyytinen enthused to a well attended Borderline, as her band launched into 'Black Ocean', a more down to earth Blues track with its heavy bass line, a nice funky repetitive riff with a full blown guitar solo complemented by both Erja's crystal clear vocal and more awesome organ.
Indeed it was all change from last year's Borderline line-up as Erja introduced her new band, with the aforementioned Kuoppala on keys, Iiro Laitinen on drums plus Tatu Back with his Gareth Bale man bun on bass, before the great riff of the predominantly keys influenced 'Everything's Fine' from her 2012 album 'Song's From The Road'. With a seemingly permanent smile on her face and an amazing solo on her green guitar, Lyytinen oozed real Blues, and with a snippet of Ella Fitzgerald's 'Summertime' - once again confirmed the fact that you can take the green Goddess out of Finland but you can't take the green Goddess out of the girl.
Cue her second single released last month off of her forthcoming album 'Another World' - the slickness of its execution more than a match for Erja's great new look. The song, written and composed by Lyttinen, describes a fictional love story in a parallel universe - given Erja's love of sci-fi movies! With its mix of a big guitar sound, a guitar solo clearly influenced and inspired by Gales/Hendrix and Heart's Melodic 80's Rock music - this was certainly a delicious appetiser for what we can expect in March next year.
The downbeat 'Stolen Hearts' Blues burner 'Slowly Burning' featuring Lyytinen's a cappella "Can You Feel My Pain Now London", despite the constant chatter at the back of the venue (#STFU), was another opportunity for Erja to take it out on her Fender Strat, with a smooth controlled vocal delivery, given the song's emotional context, plus a delightful 'Parisienne Walkways' outro. Erja then managed to get some audience participation in singing title track 'Stolen Hearts' before she once more demonstrated both her strong vocals and fret board skills that effectively turned into a very tasty little jam.
Lyytinen then teased us with a mouthwatering Mississippi Delta Blues medley. "Would you like some Muddy Waters? Robert Johnson? How about this girl from Finland?" Of course the answer was a unanimous yes as Erja mesmerised us once again with her side prowess before asking "Are you ready?" as she rounded off her superb set with the unusual time signature of the head banging 'Rocking Chair' - another from 'Stolen Hearts' - essentially a true Blues track with trademark in yer face slide guitar plus a nice grooving riff and vocal that made way for both a fantastic Laitinen drum solo and Back bass solo. Before finishing off the night with an excellent encore/cover of Hendrix's 'Crosstown Traffic', Erja deservedly gave a plug for her forthcoming album, mentioning Mr. Landreth of course! Well why not?
On a night of real Blues Rock quality, not quantity, Lyytinen once again proved that she is not only the Goddess of the slide guitar, but also has the voice, charisma, banter and looks as well. And if you missed Tuesday's gig - you might be lucky and snap up a last minute ticket to see Erja supporting Focus at London's iconic 100 Club tonight or failing that, the European Blues Award winner is playing the The Bude Blues Rhythm & Rock Festival tomorrow.
Given that 'Stolen Hearts' had a mix of songs that defied the ability to label it as a Blues album, plus the fact that Erja excluded from her set tonight the only other single/track from the new album 'Without You', we are understandably licking our lips in eager anticipation for the release of her new album. The good news is that all should become clear when Erja returns for a 12-date UK tour in March 2019. The tour will include shows in Brighton (March 18th), Sheffield (March 21st), Glasgow (March 23rd), London (March 26th) and Birmingham (March 28th). Tickets for all dates are available now via or from the Box Office (no booking fee): 01472 349 222 (Monday - Friday: 9am-5pm). See you there.