It’s been quite some time since Joanne Shaw Taylor visited Glasgow and even longer since I last caught her (rather selfish of Alice Cooper to be playing Glasgow on the same night and not being able to be in two places at once). With new album Reckless Heart landing in the Top 20 of the charts and the last night of the tour, in a venue which is rapidly gaining notoriety, it’s a night any blues fan worth their salt should be at.
Kicking things off with an already sizeable crowd in the room, Blackwater Conspiracy bring a harder edge to proceedings. There’s more of a Southern twist to their sound and had Taylor been still been touring with the Nashville-recorded-and-influenced Wild, it’s the only way tonight would have been more of a perfect fit. Having caught them at Download a couple of years ago and being a big fan of their previous incarnation, it’s great to see them once more. Now, they’re far more comfortable in their skin with having a couple of years to their new name but every bit as tight as they always were.
It’s a fairly upbeat set with the band culling the best of the best from Shootin’ the Breeze with “Hanging Tree”, “Blackwater Swagger” and “Penny From Your Dirty Mind”. Whilst still leaning on the Southern influences, “Monday Club” injects Exile-era Stones into the equation to give an extra bit of grit and Phil Conalane’s drawl only adds to it. There’s also a new song in the shape of “A Better Yesterday” and if the next album is anything like their debut, it’ll see them continue their excellent form. As one of the tightest and entertaining support acts I’ve seen in a long time, they get a hearty response by the end of their set and the Northern Irish quintet depart to a crowd suitably warmed up.
Originally scheduled for one of SWG3’s bigger rooms, Joanne Shaw Taylor follows her band out and as they launch into the first song, there’s absolutely no sign of dismay. In fact, after a lengthy tour, Taylor and her band actually seem to be enjoying their far more intimate surroundings. It seems exceptionally weird that having packed out the O2 ABC a couple of years ago, there’s now about a quarter of that. But the rest of Glasgow’s loss is the benefit of a more up-close encounter with one of blues’ leading artists.
It’s a set which passes in a blur and Taylor is, as always, all smiles. With an impassioned performance, she proves that blues is more than just about skill, you’ve got to feel it and as she remarks at a late point in the set, “Falling for a boy you shouldn’t have gets you good albums”. Given Reckless Heart is another jewel in her crown, she draws heavily from that to comprise the set but she makes sure to hit other corners of her career, and sometimes, the less obvious numbers into the bargain.
There are extended guitar solos at several points full of heart and finesse, never straying into self-indulgence, and the crowd respond heartily as they return to the remainder of the song. Meanwhile, Taylor’s more than happy to give Bob Fridzema on Hammond and keys several moments in the spotlight and the chemistry that he brought to King King has only went up to the proverbial eleven. Whilst Taylor doesn’t rely too much on the Les Paul tonight, when it makes its appearance, a Glaswegian voice encourages her with “’Gaun yersel’” and I’m reminded of the same event happening last time – if it’s the same person – kudos to you.
There’s a slight break in the evening at the halfway point as the band depart due to a technical issue but by the time “Tumbling Dice” plays from start to finish, it’s sorted and they’re back on stage to tackle the next half of the set.
I’ve not named a single song because frankly, I don’t need to. The new album was wheeled out with a healthy handful of songs and whilst the ideal Joanne Shaw Taylor set would last about three hours, it was great to see some old favourites retired in favour of new material and some more left-field choices. And with a new part of SWG3 for me, it continues to surprise and delight as the rock (and related genres) make use of it in the wake of the ABC’s demise, let’s just hope we’re back in a bigger room next time.
Photos by Gary Cooper