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Joanne Shaw Taylor + Connor Selby

Thursday 22nd February 2024

Indigo at The O2, London

Having kicked off the first of her ten UK concerts at Manchester's Royal Northern College of Music on Saturday 17th February, British Blues Rock guitar prodigy, Joanne Shaw Taylor, stopped off on Thursday night at London's Indigo at The O2, halfway through her tour, with support from Connor Selby, ahead of the release on Joe Bonamassa’s Journeyman Records, of her forthcoming 2024 studio album, 'Heavy Soul', due out on Friday 7th June.

We last saw three times winning UK Blues Awards ‘Young Artist of the Year’, Connor,
on a fine Summer's evening last July on the banks of the Thames in West London, at The Half Moon in Putney. Although Selby has been on our radar ever since we saw him for the first time supporting another outstanding Blues Rock guitarist, Erja Lyytinen, at London's The 100 Club, back in April 2017, when I was a bit miffed that we missed the start of his set, given what we saw after we arrived.

Suffice to say, just under seven years later, Connor's stock is riding high, enjoying a record deal with Mascot’s Provogue label, supporting both Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Beth Hart last year, as well as the small matter of opening for The Who at Wembley Stadium in July 2019. Ahead of his own headline tour beginning next month, Selby has been flying solo supporting JST on this tour, although tonight we spotted Connor and his band preparing for their six-song set with a pre-gig beer in the Slug & Lettuce!

Kicking off with 'Falling In Love Again', originally self-released on his 2021 eponymous album, the influence of Stefan Redtenbacher's The Funkestra, on last year's deluxe re-release, came across loud and clear from the quartet, including a solo from the Peaky Blinders' capped and 2024 UK Blues Awards Best Instrumentalist nominated, Stevie Watts on keys.

The Blues of 'The Deep End', a delightful bonus track, also from the re-release, was followed by the slower, unreleased, 'The Truth Comes Out Eventually', testament again not only to his work with Redtenbacher, but also to the maturing voice of this 27 year-old from Essex.

It was then back to where it all started for Selby, picking up the pace with the aptly entitled 'That's Alright', taken from his 2018 debut 'Made Up My Mind', before ending with stand out Les Paul guitar solos on two final songs from his last album, 'Hear My Prayer' and the beautifully constructed 'Emily'.

Indeed, the rise of both Connor and Joanne have personal parallels for us. In fact, we go all the way back this time to 2010 New Year's Eve Eve, when we first saw Joanne supporting Black Country Communion at Shepherd's Bush Empire. Needless to say that five-song set was impressive enough for us to go and see her headline in her own right five months later, back in London at Islington's O2 Academy, and as they say, the rest is history.

Just under thirteen years later, how times have changed, with the Black Country's finest, now based in Nashville, now performing with her very own US Country Communion, namely Shane Sanders - rhythm guitar, Steve Lehane - bass, Paul Whitfield - keys and Eric Savage - drums. Opening with the storming and very appropriate, 'In The Mood' from 2019's 'Reckless Heart', Taylor slowed things down a bit with a great guitar solo on Otis Rush's 'Keep On Lovin' Me' taken from JST's 2021 'The Blues Album'.

Not only did the touring band look like The Grateful Dead, but much more importantly, their outstanding musicianship was as plain to see as the bandana/dreadlocks on Whitfield's head, given his Korg/Kronos solo on 'All My Love', another from 'Reckless Heart'. Joanne's first public service announcement thanking Connor plus plugging her merch stand, with the added carrot of seeing her puppy Hank (seriously) after the show, proceeded James Ray's 'If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody', another from 'The Blues Album'. Taylor's wide smile on yet another guitar solo, visibly showed how much she is enjoying her music, complemented by an outstanding vocal, demonstrating how well the 38 year-old's voice has matured over these years.

Understandably, JST couldn't help herself throwing a few shapes and Blues riffs on Albert King's, 'Can't You See What You're Doing To Me', of which this classic from 'The Blues Album', was followed by the first airing of the night from 2016's 'Wild', namely 'Dyin To Know', which the crowd clapped along to. Prior to this, in another public service announcement, given the traditional three songs and out rule, Taylor had jokingly told the seated audience to kick any photographers up the arse if they blocked their view!

Time now to air the first song and third single from her forthcoming album, and indeed a sultry twist to her repertoire, 'Wild Love'. It was inevitable, I suppose, that the evening couldn't pass without mentioning Mr. Bonamassa! Cue a bit of banter between JST and the cheap seats before 'Won't Be Fooled Again' from 2022's 'Nobody's Fool', that originally featured, surprise, surprise, JB, with it's 80's vibe and a great solo from the bearded Sanders, as Taylor, not to be outdone, went full Rock chick on her guitar, blonde locks flowing.

The banter continued, with Joanne commenting that the punters were very quiet for a London gig! To be honest, the Indigo is a top venue but seating in the stalls, in my opinion, does not help the atmosphere. Anyway, I digress. Satisfyingly, 'Watch 'em Burn' brought back fond memories of Islington in 2011, taken from her first album, 'White Sugar', a stand out for mine from the night that had everything, including JST's awesome extended guitar solo.

After the title track from her 2010 sophomore album, 'Diamonds In The Dirt', Joanne, who understandably as a songwriter, wears her heart on her sleeve, poignantly introduced 'Fade Away'. Dedicated to her Mum who sadly died of ovarian cancer at the age of 57, the band slowed things down with this emotional message of unconditional love, Taylor's delightful acoustic guitar, complemented by Sanders, a fitting tribute that totally resonated with myself having lost my wonderful Mum last year.

"Are you sufficiently depressed?" teased Joanne, as they launched into another duo from 'Nobody's Fool', namely 'Runaway', and then straight into the very catchy, unsurprising Fleetwood Mac vibe of 'Sweet Little Lies'. Hats off to JST's driving engine room of Steve Lethane and the baseball-hatted Eric Savage, as the band ended their 90 minute/15 song set with 'Reckless Heart's 'Bad Love', before returning for a very well deserved encore of the foot tappin', Cajun vibe and dual guitars of 'Going Home', another from 'White Sugar' and ironically Taylor's Islington opener back in 2011!

Back then, with JST tour dates planned for November 2011, our London O2 Academy review advised "if you have any sense you will book early to see her - you can then say you were there at the beginning!" Indeed we were, but it's still not too late to see this amazing talent in Bexhill tonight (26/2), Bury St. Edmunds (28/2) and Southend (29/2) .... and no, Joanne nor Hank turned up in the end at the merch stand. I suppose you can't just have everything!


Photos: Chris Griffiths

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