Sunday, August 08, 2010

Joan Armatrading in Long Beach

The last of three nights of music (or 5 out of 10 nights) came to an end last night with a bang. Saturday night I watched one of the great female acoustic guitar players in Shawn Colvin. Tonight we got to watch one of the best female electric guitar players. Over the last few years Joan Armatrading has decided to take on all of the electric guitar parts, including the solos, and she has proved that she knows how to handle an axe. This is probably why she has resurrected “Tall in the Saddle” in her live shows. With the potent guitar solo during the slow part of the song, which she nailed, it fit well with her more current offerings. Joan played plenty of songs from her current CD, “This Charming Life” (her most pop CD since the early 80’s) and her blues CD from a year ago, “Into the Blues”. Both CDs feature plenty of electric guitar solos and Joan handled them like she’s been a guitar God for years. So there are three sides to Joan at her shows: the early years with songs like “Love and Affection”, the early 80’s with songs like “Me Myself I” and now the new stuff with lots of guitar (these songs are actually similar to the early years material). Missing, of course, are the late 80s and 90s which is fine with me. The first two areas receive long and often standing ovations after almost every song. The newer songs are applauded but not with the enthusiasm of her older material. The middle section of the show, which contained most of her newer work, with extended guitar solos, seemed to slow the pace of the show. But then she would throw in a nugget and the place would explode. This isn’t to say that her newer material isn’t good, just maybe not as emotionally relevant to the crowd as that older material.
Joan did turn one new song into an immediate classic. On her new CD is a song called “Best Dress On”. She has started a contest to see how long the audience can repeat the chorus (“Hey hey, look at you now. Look at you now with your best dress on”) after the song ends. The crowd sings it twice, then the band joins in then leaves it to the crowd (and back and forth until it somehow ends). I don’t think the audience got it at first because when the song ended, it ended with no one singing. So, Joan told us we weren’t even in the top 10. Suddenly a group of people in the audience started singing it and before we knew it we had defeated Denver (the current leader). Of course, this whole thing is set up to allow the last show on the tour be the winner. But they are going to have to work pretty darn hard because the count is up to 22 times right now and there are another 5 shows on the tour. The show ended with her classics, “Willow” and “Drop the Pilot”. It was a perfect evening with one of the truly great performers in rock. Too bad only about half of the Terrace Theater was filled for this amazing woman and her band.

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