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Erja Lyytinen

Wednesday 10th April 2024

The Half Moon, Putney, London

Named after her latest fourth live album, that was originally released by Tuohi Records last October, and following her successful 2023 UK tour, internationally acclaimed guitarist, singer and songwriter, Erja Lyytinen's current 10-date 'Diamonds On The Road' UK tour stopped off at London's Half Moon in Putney on Wednesday night.

Coincidentally, it was exactly seven years ago today that we had the privilege of interviewing Erja after her private unplugged set at Soho's Ain't Nothing But Blues venue, the day before her 'Stolen Hearts' album launch at London's 100 Club. Subsequent to those two memorable gigs, we not only caught the Finnish slide goddess once again, back at that very same iconic venue, but also at the much missed Borderline and Under The Bridge venues. How times have changed.

Indeed, anticipation was very much in The Thames air tonight, given this was the first time we had seen Lyytinen post-Covid. With news that the support act had pulled out at the last minute, Erja and her stripped-back power trio, featuring Heikki Saarenkunass on bass and Sami Osala on drums, made their way on to an understandably very welcoming Half Moon stage, half an hour earlier than expected.

Kicking off with her latest live album title track, 'Diamonds On The Road', taken from 2022's 'Waiting For The Daylight', Erja's silvery boots matched the guitarist's first sparkly slide solo, her fresh faced beaming smile indicating that the Finn meant business. "Here we go" Lyytinen shouted, as the band immediately followed up with 'Rocking Chair', with its unusual head-banging time signature, essentially a true Blues track with a trademark in yer face slide guitar plus a nice grooving riff and great vocal, which brought back fond memories of that 2017 album launch.

After band intros and a bit of banter about exercise classes (me neither :-), Erja's vocal, driving riff and solo on 'Bad Seed', another from 'WFTD', stood out as much as the massive 'E' on her necklace, as did 'Stolen Hearts' '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 her crystal clear vocal. "Guitar shredding - we love it!" teased Lyytinen, suitably dressed in all black. Indeed we do!

'WFTD's ballad, 'Never Really Had You', slowed things down a bit, a well constructed love song that gradually built, showcasing a stand out vocal from Erja, that more than matched her guitar playing, that was followed by the pounding drums of Sami, behind his Gretsch kit, on 'Last Girl'. A hat-trick of songs from 'Waiting For The Daylight' was complete with the slower neat riff and solo from the title track, before Lyytinen went back to 2015's 'Attention' and her Bluesy slide guitar of 'You Talk Dirty', that literally saw Erja bending over backwards on another outstanding solo.

Complementing a text book slide solo on 'Stolen Hearts' 'Lover's Novels', Saarenkunass's bass riff had the appreciative crowd clapping along to the beat, as did 'Another World's 'Wedding Day', not only picking up the pace, but also seeing the trio saving the best to last on this set closer. With Heikki on backing vocals, Lyttinen's sassy plea, as she understandably wiped away perspiration from her face, for "London come on!", didn't fall on deaf ears as this famous venue rocked out, to another awesome raw riff/tone and slide solo on her red guitar, including an AC/DC snippet!

Thankfully, Erja's closing love hand gesture to an ecstatic crowd, wasn't the end of tonight's proceedings as the band returned for two deserved encores. Firstly, and their only cover of the night, The Jimi Hendrix Experience classic, 'Crosstown Traffic', with Lyytinen multi-tasking including her green kazoo, and lastly, the slower but still beautiful, 'The End Of Music', another epic from 'WFTD', featuring not only an awesome bass solo from the pigtailed Heikki, but also a final slide solo and glorious vocal parting shot from the effervescent and infectious Lyytinen.

Greeting her fans at the merch stand afterwards, it was a nice touch and a sign of Erja's lovely character that she remembered that interview from seven years ago! Similarly, we certainly won't forget tonight either Erja! Lyytinen will also be headlining HRH Blues 8 at the O2 Academy Sheffield tonight, followed by Dudley's The Lamp Tavern Live tomorrow night. If you still have the chance - do not miss her.


Photos: Chris Griffiths

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