Monday 25th September
The Borderline, London
Finland’s leading slide guitarist Erja Lyytinen returned to London on Monday night, and on this particular occasion The Borderline, the penultimate part of her seven date UK tour. Hot on the heels of the release of Erja’s critically acclaimed album 'Stolen Hearts' which was released earlier this year, we were lucky enough to be at the album launch at London's 100 Club in April. As expected, an evening that began with a bit of a niff at this recently refurbished venue, ended with Erja smelling of roses - the gig raising the slide Goddesses bar even higher.
"Are We Good To Go? Ya!" asked Lyytinen as her band opened with the same two tracks from 'Stolen Hearts' that they previously performed at the aforementioned 100 Club gig. Cue the mystical intro to 'City Of Angels', which tells the story of of Erja's visit to the Californian metropolis - appropriately with an angelic vocal from Lyytinen plus its powerful chorus and component parts delivered perfectly. 'Lovers Novels' not only saw a text book Lyytinen slide guitar solo but also a great duet with Harri Taittonen on hammond organ. Taittonen - the only new face (think Harrison Wells meets Richard Osman) on this particular UK tour, strangely enough was the only common denominator (other than Erja) when the band performed at Finland's Ruska Blues ten days earlier.
Accordingly Erja introduced her band including Juha Verona on bass and Kai Jokiaho on drums before the predominantly key influenced 'Everything's Fine' from her 2012 album 'Song's From The Road'. With a seemingly permanent smile on her face and down on bended knee - an amazing solo on her green guitar, that oozed real Blues, with a subtle hint of 'Summertime' - 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. "The next song has a lot of guitar - but you don't mind that do you?" Lyytinen teased as they launched '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.
The downbeat Blues burner 'Slowly Burning' with its Lyytinen a cappella "Can You Feel My Pain Now People" 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. Before Erja belted out the title track 'Stolen Hearts' - she fittingly paid tribute to legendary producer Chris Kimsey for his contribution to the album. Erja then managed to get some audience participation in singing "Stolen Hearts" before she once more demonstrated both her strong vocals and fret board skills with a Hendrix twist that effectively turned into a very tasty little jam.
Erja then dedicated the next song "To All The Ladies" - unsurprisingly a cover of Koko Taylor’s ‘I’m A Woman’ - its pounding bass line again not only the perfect nine minute vehicle to showcase Erja's voice and slide guitar prowess but also the undoubted talent of Taittonen, Verona and Jokiaho. "Oh Yeah!" Awesome. In between superb covers of both Hendrix's 'Crosstown Traffic' and a Robert Johnson/Blind Willie McTell medley, Lyytinen not only expressed how much she was enjoying herself, but she also tipped off the punters about a future Under The Bridge gig (see below).
They rounded the set off with the unusual time signature of the head banging 'Rocking Chair' - essentially a true Blues track with trademark in yer face slide guitar plus a nice grooving riff and vocal that made way for a fantastic drum and bass solo. A thoroughly enjoyable evening ended with an a capella intro from Erja on their encore 'People Get Ready' - a beautiful take on the Curtis Mayflied/The Impressions number - Lyytinen's sweet guitar solo bringing back memories of the innocence of the early Bonamassa era. Whilst 'Stolen Hearts' has a mix of songs that defies the ability to label it as a Blues album, it was noticeable that tonight's set list saw the more Pop than Blues of 'Silver Stones', '24 Angels' and 'Awakening' plus the funkier 'Love Laboratory' all relegated from the original album launch gig back in April. Yes this was indeed a night for the real Blues Rock connoisseur and we lapped up every second of it. Erja now returns to her native Finland for a tour but make a note in your diary for next year Friday 23rd March for "Ladies Of The Blues" at Under The Bridge featuring Erja, Kyla Brox and the Connie Lush Band.