Finland, famous for Nokia, ski jumping, ice-hockey, javelin, and Metal bands. Now we can add blues-rock to that list, courtesy Erja Lyytinen. She only came to my attention this year after I read a positive write-up of her gig at London’s 100 Club back in April, but has actually been around for over a decade, with 10 studio albums and three live albums to her name. For this show, to the best of my knowledge her first in my local area, she and her band were booked into the L2 at Chester’s Live Rooms. The set-up was intimate, with low lighting, tables (complete with candles) and chairs set out on the normally standing floor area. If there was a support, I’d missed it (I took the train to Chester on this occasion) but got there to find a crowd of mostly guys my own age, all awaiting her arrival.
It was a low-key entrance, as she and band strolled out through the main door, ambled across the audience and to the tiny stage in the corner of this room. Accompanied by a bassist, drummer and a keyboard player who had a real, genuine Hammond organ (yaaay!) as opposed to a software patch emulating one, she introduced herself and band before strapping on a glittery blue guitar to kick things off with ‘City of Angels’, a track from her latest album ‘Stolen Heart’. Any inkling that this was going to be a quiet little gig was blown away within seconds, as that glittery guitar was set to kill with an almighty tone! I’ll admit to not having boned up on her music before this show, partly because I wanted to experience it ‘blind’ but I did have a reasonably good idea of what to expect, and she didn’t disappoint. Slide guitar, heavy riffing, solos both tastefully restrained and delightfully unrestrained, soulful singing and also giving her band space to show off as well (in particular Hammond player Harri Taittonen) with some soloing of their own.
Several tracks off the current album were played including the lengthy epic ‘Black Ocean’ and the slow blues of ‘Slowly Burning’, as well as numerous covers including Hendrix’s ‘Crosstown Traffic’, Koko Taylor’s ‘I’m A Woman’, a hard-rocking cover of Tina Turner’s ‘Steamy Windows’ and closing with an immaculately delivered ‘People Get Ready’, originally by The Impressions. Throughout, she held the attention not only with superb playing, but with an endearing sense of humour, happily joking with the audience, for example asking who among us is in need of a rocking chair (before playing her track ‘Rocking Chair’ – nothing to do with the Magnum song of the same name!)
From my spot the sound of her guitar was a little loud, so that it did at times overwhelm her singing when she really unleashed the fury, but during the quieter moments she did show what a fine singer she is too. She got a tremendous reception from the audience, as said before it was about 100 at the most who showed but it sounded like far more. She said that she and her band will return to the UK in March next year, I’d expect word of her to spread rapidly after this run and so if she returns to Chester it should be the main room next time, where greats of this style such as King King and Joanne Shaw Taylor have already graced that stage.
I knew little about this artist before the show, but feel like I know her well now – the mark of a great performer. When she comes back I intend to be there, and if you’re reading this Erja – the Live Rooms is great but we’ve also got venues at my end of the Merseyrail in Liverpool that would suit this show 😉