When this triple bill was announced last autumn, the name which caught my attention was that of Erja Lyytinen. I’d seen the Finnish guitarist and singer last year in Chester, after a glowing recommendation from a Facebook friend and occasional music writer. Having wowed me with her guitar playing as much as her vocals, I was pleased to hear she’d be back in early 2018.
The other acts on the bill were veteran British ‘blues shouter’ Connie Lush, whom I have seen before, and Kyla Brox, whom I hadn’t. The Atkinson complex includes an art gallery, a theatre and the ‘studio’ performance space, where this event was to be held. The floor was set out with tables and chairs, completely unreserved so it was a case of picking the best chair still going! Had I known, the balcony upstairs would have been a better option as that was made up of conventional rows of seats. The three performers have been rotating their slots on this tour, and for this show (the last date of the run) it was Erja Lyytinen who was up first, coming on stage at 7:30.
The only one of the three ‘ladies of the blues’ who played guitar as well as singing, she introduced herself with a lengthy piece of slide guitar. Her take on the blues is more my flavour, with plenty of guitar fire and soloing, particularly on the epic ‘Black Ocean’. This time around I was better able to hear her vocals; at Chester last year her guitar did tend to overpower her voice but here it was a better balance. She has a very powerful range, at one point even stepping away from the mic to deliver vocal lines. When she really reached for the notes, she was reminiscent of Lzzy Hale – if she were to change tack and play blues instead of hard rock/metal! Most of what she played came from last studio album ‘Stolen Hearts’ although she did perform new single ‘Without You’. I got the impression many here (certain agers, much like your correspondent!) weren’t familiar with her beforehand, they certainly knew all about her 50 minutes later!
Next up was Kyla Brox, and when I saw her I thought at first she was American – a tall figure with long black hair and wearing a dress with comic book panels printed on it (I couldn’t read the comic panels from my spot!) and in possession of a mighty voice, she made me believe she was from the Delta, until she spoke. Her accent soon revealed that it was more likely to be the Irwell delta, since she and her band actually hail from the Manchester area! She and the band weren’t working to a set list, and took one request from an audience member (‘Don’t Mess With My Man’), performing it on the spot. This band leant more towards the jazzy side of blues, but still featured an impressive guitarist in Paul Farr, and bassist Danny Blomeley (Brox’s husband), who got a bass solo of his own during one number. Her set ended with a cover of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’, where she let loose the full range of her vocal power.
Last up was local heroine Connie Lush; accompanied as ever by her husband, bassist Terry Harris as well as drummer Roy Martin (last seen by me backing Sari Schorr) and guitarist Steve Wright. Looking somewhat like your slightly crazy auntie who always drags you up to dance at a family gathering, she brought a welcome sense of humour to the evening. ‘That was a low trick, Kyla’ she said, pointing out that Kyla Brox (by now at the merch table) had brought along her young children, as the Scouse blueser continued: ‘bringing your kids to sell your CD!’ She was of course joking, and continued to perform with a huge grin on her face for the rest of the set. Even when performing ‘Lonely Boy’, a song she said was written about an old school pal, she cracked a gag hoping that someone would claim it was them and that she’d get a drink out of them (nobody did!)
Her set was a mix of her own material and some covers, including ‘No Regrets’ where she gave a shout-out to its writer (Tom Rush). Like Kyla Brox’s set, her performance was more purist blues but delivered with that sense of fun throughout. After her main set, she brought back Kyla Brox and Erja Lyytinen for a finale where the three first sang acapella, then the band came back on for a cover of the Rolling Stones’ ‘Satisfaction’ with all three singers taking turns.
Although I’d come along for Erja Lyytinen primarily this was an enjoyable night of music from all three acts, each had around 50 minutes to do their thing. For £18 it was good value too, and if this format is repeated in future will no doubt be successful once again.