Sari Schorr + Mike Vernon & The Might Combo
Friday 14th September 2018
The Borderline, London
Sari Schorr steam rolled her way onto the European Blues-Rock scene in 2016 with her hard hitting debut album ‘A Force Of Nature’, produced by the legendary producer Mike Vernon (Blue Horizon founder) and released on the Manhaton record label. Originally from New York, Schorr served her apprenticeship singing in the Blues and Jazz clubs of the Bronx and Manhattan’s Lower East Side, later going on to perform at the prestigious Carnegie Hall. With a dedicated determination to succeed this operatically trained tornado stood her ground as a phenomenal Blues-Rock singer who would not be denied. Over the years Schorr has gained wider exposure and increased popularity by touring with the likes of Joe Louis Walker, Poppa Chubby, Walter Trout and Robin Trower.
Sari's much anticipated sophomore album ‘Never Say Never’ will be released on Friday 5th October again on the Manhaton record label and produced by Henning Gehrke (Starworks Music). Through regular touring around Europe and the UK over the last couple of years, Schorr has built up a highly respected reputation as one of the finest Blues-Rock singers of our time! Her vocal talent and performance skills are most definitely up there with the likes of legendary singers Bessie Smith, Etta James, Janis Joplin and Tina Turner.
This concert at the Borderline was her album launch/showcase, which was also the second night of a ten date UK tour to promote the new album. This was a gig I was very much looking forward to, as I had never seen her perform live before. Unfortunately every time she played in London previously, I was either unable to attend, or at another gig across town! Luckily I was able to be present on this very special night, and wow what a night it was! The one thing I can say for sure is that she did not disappoint! It is fair to say Sari Schorr blew the roof of the Borderline with her powerhouse voice and dynamic performance!
The evening’s entertainment kicked off in style with a very prestigious guest in the shape of none other than Mike Vernon and his Mighty Combo! The legendary Blue Horizon producer now fronting his own band of merry men, consisting of himself on vocals, Kid Carlos on guitar, Matt Little on piano/Hammond organ, Ian Jennings on double bass, Mike Hellier on drums and Paul Tasker on tenor/baritone saxes. They stormed through an enjoyable set of Swing and Jump Blues style songs, some original and some covers. Most of which feature on his newly released album, ‘Beyond The Blue Horizon’, which was released earlier this month on the Manhaton record label.
It was very clear to see that Vernon was having a ball up there on stage performing and singing his heart out. His natural exuberance shines through, complete with enthusiastic ‘Dad’ dancing to match! The guitarist, Kid Carlos, has an uncanny resemblance to a 1969 Peter Green! He also played a few tasty Les Paul guitar solos too! The band stomped their way through an eleven song set including ‘Okie Dokie Stomp’, ‘We're Gonna Rock The Joint’, ‘Kiddio’, ‘Heart & Soul’, ‘Be On That Train’, ‘But I Do’, ‘I Can Fix It’, ‘Old Man Dreams’, ‘Jump Up’, ‘A Love Affair With The Blues’ and ‘Hate To Leave’. During the last song Vernon descended the stage and danced and sashayed his way through the audience before exiting the floor, only to resurface moments later at the merchandise stall to sign copies of his new CD.
After a short break came the main event we were all waiting for, time for Sari Schorr and The Engine Room to entertain us! The current incarnation of the ‘Engine Room’ features Ash Wilson (Sean Webster Band/Jesse Davey's Big Blues Band) on guitar/backing vocals, Bob Fridzema (King King/Joanne Shaw Taylor) on keyboards, Mat Beable (Stevie Nimmo Band) on bass and Roy Martin (Connie Lush Band/Modern English) on drums.
As the lights dimmed, the ‘Engine Room’ entered the stage, cranked up their gear, gathered their focus and charged into the groove laden intro to ‘The New Revolution’, a blinding new song from the ‘Never Say Never’ album. The band gradually built up the momentum and tension before Sari made her spectacular entrance to the stage and launched straight into the opening lines of the song with veritable gusto! What a voice! Truly magical! A powerful opening to the ninety-minute set, which continued to escalate with ‘Damn The Reason’, a monumental track from the ‘A Force Of Nature’ album. The band is locked in and grooving, Sari is immersed in the lyrics and the emotion is pouring out from her lungs like fire! Her facial expression says it all! She's giving it everything she’s got! We are truly gobsmacked and hypnotised!
A couple of brilliantly well-crafted and stand out songs from the new 'Never Say Never' album, ‘King Of Rock And Roll’ and ‘Thank You’, thundered in with total conviction and were performed with pure adrenalised energy and fervent passion. Volcanic vocals erupted and poured from Sari like molten lava! Spell binding stuff! It is plain to see that Schorr is at one with the music, inhabiting every song. It is also abundantly clear that she means every word she sings, her honest and sincere delivery exemplifies this.
Hotfooting it up next were two tracks from the ‘Force Of Nature’ album, ‘Demolition Man’, a down and gritty Blues shuffle, followed by ‘Ain't Got No Money’, a Funky groove laden Blues. Both were performed with pounding determination and exuberant attitude. Soaring high-pitched vocals with perfectly controlled vibrato exquisitely executed by Schorr, and some classy Blues guitar licks played by Wilson complimented each other flawlessly. Schorr and Wilson clearly have musical chemistry going on, gelling seamlessly together, a great musical partnership very much in evidence. Long may it continue!
The first cover song of the evening, ‘Ready For Love’, followed, a Mott The Hoople/Bad Company song written by Mick Ralphs and recorded by Sari for the ‘Never Say Never’ album - a superlative rendition that oozed intense emotion and vulnerable sincerity. Storming in next was ‘I Just Want To Make Love To You’, a 1954 Blues song written by Willie Dixon, first recorded by Muddy Waters and covered by many others thereafter. A perfect cover song to showcase Sari’s vibrant and gravely Blues voice. ‘Kiss Me’ from the ‘A Force Of Nature’ album, kept the mood flowing along nicely. Another couple of tasty tracks from the ‘Never Say Never’ album, ‘Maybe I'm Foolin'’ and ‘Valentina’ rattled in like a freight train, both songs being galloping Heavy Rockers delivered with raging fire and stony grit!
One of my favourites came next, the title track of the new album, ‘Never Say Never’, written by Ian McLagan (Small Faces/Faces) and originally featured on McLagan’s 2008 ‘Never Say Never’ album. This is a sublimely beautiful song with fountains of emotion pouring from each and every word. A sensational and breath-taking performance from Sari! Being a fan of McLagan’s work and having seen him perform several times (Sadly McLagan passed away in 2014 at the age of 69 due to complications after suffering a stroke), this song has etched a deeper resonance for me, and as a result when I hear Sari’s version it has me welling up every time!
If that wasn't enough, there was even more to come! ‘Freedom’, from the ‘Never Say Never’ album, is a mid-paced Rocker with an up-lifting chorus that rolled along with blazing energy! There’s no stopping this woman, Schorr keeps the atmosphere flowing and the energy levels elevated! The applause from the gathered throng remained consistently enthusiastic, and rightfully so!
And so to the encore and time for ‘Black Betty’, an old American folk song adapted by Leadbelly in 1939, later covered by many musicians including Ram Jam who had a hit with it in 1977. Sari’s take on this song is unique and her performance is absolutely enthralling. Can it get any better!? The final song of the set was the sensational ‘Aunt Hazel’ from the ‘A Force Of Nature’ album. A hard-hitting Rocking stomper of a track with belting raw snarling vocals and balls of steel attitude! Let’s Rock! And Rock we did! A fantastic climax to an incredible gig!
Steven C. Gilbert