Sari Schorr/Sharee Williams
Friday 18th January 2019
The 100 Club, London
Described by many music pundits as a modern-day hybrid of Janis Joplin and Tina Turner - a red-hot Rock singer who radiates emotional intensity, who connects with and inspires her audiences - Sari Schorr certainly left a lasting impression at London's 100 Club last Friday night. Following the release of her latest album 'Never Say Never', New Yorker Schorr was playing the penultimate night of London Blues Week, co-headlining with fellow American Sharrie Williams - The Princess of Rockin' Gospel Blues - on a mouthwatering double bill.
"How Are You Doing?" Sharrie enquired following an intro from her band, the majority of which were amazingly made up from Sari's band with the exception of Sharrie's German right hand guitar man Lars Kutschke. Williams immediately let off the hand-break with the slow lane/fast lane Blues of 'Hard Drivin' Woman' - the title track of her 2004 album, her stage presence instantly infectious, as she stared down the assembled paparazzi's camera lenses, got the packed crowd to clap their hands and vocally sparred with Kutschke's guitar. Before Sharrie launched into the Funky Blues of 'I'll Take You There', she shared the fact that this was the first time she had been back in London since 2009. Well her banter was just as sparkly as her top as she cheekily enquired "Is anybody here?" as she encouraged the 100 Club punters to snap their fingers, as Bob Fridzema let his pinkies do the talking on his Hammond, complemented by Roy Martin's drum solo. "Let's hear it for the bass man" enthused Williams, as the waistcoated Mat Beable deservedly also took a bow. Sharrie's question "Is anybody in love?" received a muted response - well I suppose this is the Blues - although we suspect that the recently married Fridzema did actually raise an arm. Cue, the knock-out 'Crazy For You', another track from 'HDW', Williams' vocal more than equalling Kutschke's fret prowess.
The bombshell that Sherrie and Lars had only met up with Sari's band members for the first time earlier that afternoon, was matched by the hypnotic 'Out Of The Dark', the title track from her 2011 album. With Kutschke once gain excelling on guitar, this was an insight into Williams past struggles with crack cocaine, and given the subject matter, this was a truly commanding vocal performance, her Gospel like delivery of "Come Into The Light", "Thank God I'm Free", "Joy In The Light" and "Give The Band Some Love", totally respected by her mesmerised 100 Club congregation. Sharrie's church was now rockin' as she asked everyone to put their hands together on 'Lover By Trade' - it's message - one of struggle, the fire inside, hope, love - but not forgetting another superb Lars solo, as Williams embraced a lucky guy down the front, as everyone joined in on the "Gotta Love" chorus. Kutschke's intro on the slow burning Blues of 'The World Is In Trouble', saw Williams demanding "Give Me Some Reverb Baby", as the band duly delivered on, for mine, the stand-out of the set. What a vocal performance from Sharrie, ably assisted by her partner in crime Lars, as he launched into another cool solo. It was time to spread the love one last time as Williams declared "We Love You So Much" as she again demanded "Come On London" to join in on her final number, the Funky singalong of 'Travellin'. Not sure how Sari was to going to follow William's 'feeling good' set, but we just hoped that Sharrie would not leave it another ten years before she returns to these shores. Awesome.
Unlike Sharrie Williams - this was not the first time we had seen 2016 WRC Best Blues Rock Performance winner Sari Schorr. In fact the first time we saw Sari was just over three years ago at a showcase at London's Surya. Indeed, the last time we caught Sari was at London's Borderline last September, with her new line up of guitarist Ash Wilson and the aforementioned Fridzema, Martin and Beable. Schorr insisted that her new album be recorded live to capture the raw energy of her music. Her songs are highly crafted with vibrant lyrics that highlight just how good Sari is at invoking passion, grit, and empathy. Substituting one excellent guitarist for another, Ash's 'Shine Onish' Floyd intro saw the ever-smiling Schorr take to the stage and open with the rockin', groove laden, 'The New Revolution' from the new album, with both a powerful vocal and the first of many guitar solos from Wilson, before they went back to 'A Force Of Nature's 'Damn The Reason', with Sari clenching her fist, given its subject matter of domestic violence, although still managing to throw a few welcome Sonja Christina shapes at the same time!
The Robert Johnson tribute 'King Of Rock And Roll', had an Ash solo that no doubt dear old Bob would have been proud of, before another from the new album 'Thank You' - saw Schorr's rich, vibrant, gravely vocal as sassy and powerful as ever - both songs performed with pure adrenalised energy and fervent passion. Sari then took time out to thank Mike Vernon, producer of 'A Force Of Nature', who actually supported Schorr at The Borderline last year, before knocking out a brace from said album. 'Demolition Man', a down and gritty Blues shuffle, was again forcefully sung and written by Schorr in support of Amnesty International's resolution to decriminalise sex work, which saw an exceptional keys solo from Fridzema, with Schorr playfully squaring up to Wilson on another Ash guitar solo. Whilst the Funky groove laden Blues of 'Ain't Got No Money', Schorr's protest against the greed of Wall Street, saw yet more Wilson licks thrown in for good measure.
Fridzema's delicate solo on the first cover of the evening, Mick Ralph's 'Ready For Love', was delivered with much passionate grace and intense raw emotion by Sari and band, and was followed by another cover, a storming version of Willie Dixon's 'I Just Want To Make Love To You', which truly reflected the dynamism within the band, with the audience duly clapping along as Wilson used his sleeve on his fret before a beautiful sensuous refrain snippet of Donna Summer's 'I Feel Love' from the versatile Schorr. The rapturous applause continued as charismatic Sari not only heartfully added that she was so lucky to have this band, but also praised co-headliner Sheree, before playing the stand-out track for mine, from her previous album, 'Kiss Me', which harps back to Sari's love of 60's Psychedelic Rock, which saw Ash revelling in a riff/chorus/solo that rocked out big time - with another awesome Sari vocal - Schorr even managing to include a line about her beloved Pit Bulls - although the song is about being in love with someone who is gone. Another sincere message from Sari to focus on the positive things in life preceded the title track from her latest album, a moving cover of the sublimely beautiful late Ian McLagan's 'Never Say Never', which was followed by another track from 'NSN', the live debut of 'Turn The Radio' On', with its cool piano intro - a sad story about finding the right man at the wrong time.
Two more from 'NSN' followed, another great Schorr vocal/Wilson solo on the Heavy Rock of 'Valentina', with Sari afterwards thanking both the crowd plus taking the opportunity to remind them that the band are also supporting King King at London's Koko on Thursday 7th February! Although the stand-out of the set for mine was 'Freedom', a mid-paced Rocker, with Fridzema's dexterity embellishing some killer vocal harmonies. It was back to 'AFON' though for the encore, with Sari not only mentioning their merch stand and introducing the band, but also amusingly trying to remember where they were from! Lead Belly's 'Black Betty' - with its unique arrangement, saw the chemistry between Wilson's cajun guitar opening and solo plus Schorr's vocal delivery - ultimately resulting in a very powerful version of this classic, before finishing with the familiar clunky opening riff of 'Aunt Hazel' - based on urban slang for heroin - with both Sari and Ash letting us have it with both barrels on this rocker. Suffice to say that this force of nature just gets stronger and stronger since we first encountered it just before Christmas 2015. Never say never - just make sure you catch the band at London's Koko on Thursday 7th February or alternatively at Twickenham's Eel Pie Club exactly a month later!
AJ (photos courtesy of Richard Bolwell)