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Joanne Shaw Taylor + Connor Selby

29th February 2024

Palace Theatre, Westcliff-on-Sea

I try to catch all Joanne’s London shows, but a diary clash ruled out the Indigo2 gig, so I decided instead to catch up with her in Westcliff near Southend. The Palace Theatre there was a small variety venue when it opened in 1912 and now has an all seated capacity of 600. It held a bit of nostalgia for both artists on the night, as Connor Selby was raised in Billericay, while one of Joanne’s earliest gigs was with Ian Siegal in a smaller venue nearby.

Connor played amplified, but solo, with just his nimble guitar work supporting his vocals. He has always seemed naturally shy, but now engages more with his audience and makes an effort to introduce his songs and provide some background information about them. His half hour set of six songs was well received and the fact that four of them were taken from his eponymous 2021 album (only ‘That’s Alright’ appears in his 2018 debut release ‘Made Up My Mind’, while ‘The Truth Comes Out Eventually’ is a new, as yet unrecorded, song) helped him to sell some merchandise during the interval which followed.

Having now witnessed Connor play solo and in duo (when supporting Beth Hart at the Palladium), I’m looking forward to hearing him with a full band again; if nothing comes up in London before then, he will headline The 100 Club’s Tuesday Blues on 25th June.

Given that Joanne’s last tour two years ago was to promote her album of Blues classics, I was curious to see which songs she’d pull from her back catalogue for us this time. After some monitor problems things got underway with ‘In The Mood’ from ‘Reckless Heart’ (2019) and the band hit the ground running, despite some technical issues with one of Phil Whitfield’s keyboards.

Next up was an early treat for me and anyone else who loves the music of Otis Rush, with Joanne reeling off a guitar solo of which the great man himself would have been proud during her take on ‘Keep On Loving Me’ (from ‘The Blues Album’, 2021), which dates back to 1959. After another dip back into ‘Reckless Heart’ for ‘All Of My Love’, Joanne returned to the Blues collection for the next two numbers; ‘If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody’ (originally recorded by James Ray in 1961, but more often associated with Aretha Franklin) featured solos by both the leader and fellow six-stringer Joey Spina, while ‘Can’t You See What You’re Doing To Me’ brought back fond memories of vintage 70s Albert King.

It's easy to focus on Joanne’s guitar solos on these Blues numbers, but it would be unfair to do so without mentioning the depth and richness of the vocals. Her decision to defer the recording of an all Blues album until the time felt right means that the material suits her voice (and vice versa) far better than might have been the case a decade earlier.

‘Dying To Know’ then took us briefly back to ‘Wild’ (2016), before Joanne introduced the new song ‘Wild Love’ with an amusing tale about spending a long day in a Nashville field shooting the promo video, having been duped by her team into believing that Kevin Costner might make a guest appearance in it!

‘Won’t Be Fooled Again’ (from ‘Nobody’s Fool’, 2022) provided a change of pace, being Joanne’s unashamedly successful attempt at writing a 1980s Pop song. After a change of pace came of change of instruments for ‘Watch ‘Em Burn’ (from ‘White Sugar’, 2009), with both guitarists and bassist Shane Sanders getting fresh axes and Whitfield switching to organ, as Eric Savage kept things firmly anchored from behind the drums (and it’s probably as well that everything was firmly anchored, as Joanne noted that the stage had a marked slope towards us!).

After the band’s extended jam on ‘Watch ‘Em Burn’, Joanne followed her impressive solo with a longer and even better one on the title track from ‘Diamonds In The Dirt’ (2010), as Whitfield again provided solid support on organ. When that album was released there were several young female Blues/Rock guitarists emerging on the scene and this led to unfortunate debates about “best girl guitarist”; this is hopefully now a thing of the past, as Joanne has proved that she is simply one of the best guitarists out there (irrespective of gender). Period.

We were still getting our breath back as Joanne returned to ‘Nobody’s Fool’ for ‘Fade Away’ and ‘Runaway’, the former being dedicated to her late mother as Joanne spoke eloquently and movingly about loss and about the unconditional love and support that she had received from both parents. In keeping with the gentler, more reflective mood, both guitarists switched to acoustic guitars for the song.

In concluding the evening with ‘Bad Love’ (from ‘Reckless Heart’) and returning for an encore of ‘Going Home’ (originally the opening track on ‘White Sugar’, but now a popular set closer), Joanne thanked us for continuing to support live music in the aftermath of the pandemic, which many musicians had feared might be career ending. Happily the opposite has been true and Joanne goes from strength to strength, with each album and tour somehow managing to feel more impressive than the one before.

Westcliff was the final stop on this tour, but hopefully Joanne will be back in the UK before long; do yourself a favour and be sure not to miss her.

Gary Smith

Photos: Laurence Harvey


CS – Falling In Love Again; The Deep End; The Truth Comes Out Eventually;
That’s Alright; Love Letter To The Blues; Emily.

JST – In The Mood; Keep On Lovin’ Me; All Of My Love; If You Gotta Make A
Fool Of Somebody; Can’t You See What You’re Doing To Me; Dyin’ To
Know; Wild Love; Won’t Be Fooled Again; Watch ‘Em Burn; Diamonds
In The Dirt; Fade Away; Runaway; Bad Love; (encore) Going Home.

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