ARCHIVE POST: Caught Live: Joanne Shaw Taylor, Citadel St Helens 11 July 2015

Ronnie writes: This is a post taken from the archives of my previous blog (now offline) and I will periodically post old content as and when time permits. 

British blues-rock guitarist Joanne Shaw Taylor (often referred to by her initials ‘JST’) is one of those artists I had never quite got around to until now. She’s been around the scene for several years now, and has toured with some major names, including as support to Robin Trower earlier this year, and, in a big coup, headlining with none other than Whitesnake legend Bernie Marsden as her support act last autumn.

This gig, at the very intimate Citadel in St Helens, was JST’s second visit to the venue, and is part of a tour in support of her current album ‘The Dirty Truth’. The venue was close to capacity, with an audience mainly comprising guys around my own age. The same sort of crowd that was following Joe Bonamassa when he burst onto the scene almost a decade ago, and not the sort of crowd that is easily impressed by flash, brash newcomers. JST is hardly the kind of performer to go for flashy presentation; dressed all in black and with minimal stage dressing (just a backdrop with her name on it in large letters), she came onto the stage flanked by just two guys, bassist Tom Godlington and drummer Oliver Perry. They’re a solid enough rhythm section, but stay firmly in the background allowing JST the lion’s (lioness’s?) share of the spotlight.
Were she merely a singer, she’d be considered a major talent in her field still. But she is also an immense talent with a Les Paul (or Telecaster) in hand, wowing this hard-to-please crowd of middle-aged blokes who’ve seen it all with blistering solo after blistering solo. Even when she prefaces a song saying that ‘we’re gonna take it down a bit now’, she still builds it up into a climactic crescendo.

JST is a triple threat; a voice that evokes the great blues shouters of decades gone by, a guitar talent that is up there with the likes of Bonamassa and a prolific songwriter. She tends to play ‘fingerstyle’ guitar and to see her pick some complex-looking fills out while singing at the same time was a real treat. Another thing that caught my eye was her tendency to break out into a huge grin while ripping out solos, as though she’s surprising herself at what’s coming out of the guitar.

This was as soulful and fiery a performance as the one I saw Beth Hart give at the Philharmonic recently, but while the American star sang with occasional piano, leaving the hard-hitting riffs to her two guitarists, all of this was provided by Joanne Shaw Taylor with only a rhythm section behind her.

There’ll be another chance to catch JST live in the area this autumn when she plays at Liverpool’s Epstein (formerly Neptune) Theatre in October. I’ve already booked for it and would urge anybody with a taste for bluesy rock guitar to get themselves a ticket. By rights she should be a major star, had she been around 40 years ago I’ve no doubt she would be.


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