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Joan Armatrading

De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill - 5th October, 2018

Written By Andy Gunton

  • Photograph by Eckhard Henkel

She came all the way to Bexhill.

After past performances in Hastings, Joan Armatrading made the short journey along the A259 to the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill last Friday evening.

Having not seen Joan Armatrading live before, I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but a sold out crowd certainly suggested that I'd been missing something all of these years.

It was obvious from overheard conversations at the bar that many of that crowd had seen her multiple times previously.

This was a show of two halfs, in more ways than one.

Joan Armatrading ambled onto the stage to tell us that she was going to be her own support act.

By that she explained that the first half of the show would be made up of her new album, 'Not Too Far Away', played in its entirety and in track order too.

Her reasoning being that as nobody usually knows the songs that a 'normal' support act would play, these brand new songs of hers would be listened to in the same way.

I must say I couldn't fault her logic, but some in the audience were way ahead of her, having obviously bought and listened to the album already.

The songs from 'Not Too Far Away' are certainly of the same calibre as those from across her 46 year career, especially the title track, played on just an acoustic guitar, which was a highlight of the evening for me.

Having seen shows of this kind before where the performer plays their songs solo and unaccompanied, as opposed to having a backing band behind them, I was expecting the same thing at this gig.

The stage set up of just two acoustic guitars, two piano's, one electric, suggested that as well.

But Joan had an array of effects pedals at her feet, and at her disposal.

As she explained, one of these was to help give a range to her voice, but the others contained what were effectively backing tracks, consisting of bass guitar, keyboards, and even a saxaphone.

I must be honest and say that this took something away from the performance for me, especially as some of those effects were a little louder in the mix than I felt they needed to be, and therefore started to drown out the actual performer.

Joan Armatrading's songs are definitely good enough to be played completely solo, as evidenced by 'Not Too Far Away', so it was a pity that she felt they needed that little something extra to boost them.

Sometimes less is more, and this was certainly one of those occasions.

Having said that, judging by the reaction of the audience, I was in a minority when it comes to feeling that way.

Part two of the gig concentrated on the songs we all know and love, with a couple of surprises thrown in.

This included 'Kind Words And A Real Good Heart', which she said hadn't been played live since 1986, and 'Travelled So Far', whose last outing was way back in 1975!

Just about all the favourites were there, 'All The Way From America', 'Rosie', and the closing number 'Drop The Pilot', the one song where I felt the backing effects actually added something to the performance.

By this time some of the audience couldn't control themselves any longer and were dancing in the aisles, and standing by their seats.

The two song encore featured 'The Weakness In Me', and a very good rendition of 'Love And Affection', one of those songs that you forget just how good it is until you hear it again.

The sell out crowd left happy and satisfied, if their standing ovation and enthusiastic applause was anything to go by. 

Joan Armatrading is an engaging performer who still has a wonderful, powerful voice, and I've no doubt that many of those present tonight will be queuing up to buy their tickets the next time she comes to town.

 

Find out more about Joan Armatrading at: joanarmatrading.com

 

For info about other gigs at the De La Warr Pavilion, go to: dlwp.com/whats-on

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