Category Archives: Live reviews

Matt Andersen: People get ready

Matt Andersen | The Borderline | 25 May 2017

(Photo credit: Laurence Harvey)

One of Matt Andersen’s favourite albums is Aretha Franklin’s ‘Amazing Grace’. Recorded with a church choir in 1972, the live LP captures the then 30-year-old singer belting out standards like ‘Climbing Higher Mountains’ as if her life depends on it. “It’s all about the delivery,” he explained to me recently.

The same can be said of the Canadian singer-songwriter’s own performances. Sitting alone on stage, with just an acoustic guitar and a bottled water for company, he strips back his songs to their bare bones. But anything the live renditions lose in instrumentation – none of the drums, brass, and electric guitar flourishes of the studio recordings make it onto the stage – they more than gain in heart and soul.

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Dan Patlansky: Bolder, braver, better

Dan Patlansky | O2 Academy Islington 2 | 2 May 2017

(Photo credit: Richard Bolwell)

Want to improve as a guitarist? “Push the envelope all the time and try to learn something new every time you play,” suggests Dan Patlansky.

The blues-rock musician, and one of the genre’s brightest stars, certainly doesn’t need to heed his own advice. But, even after 20 years of honing his craft, he clearly seems to be. So much so that every time he returns to the UK, the South African’s playing is even more impressive than before – bolder, braver, better.

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Craig Finn: There’s a darkness in my body

Craig Finn | The Courtyard | 19 April

During Hold Steady gigs, Craig Finn opens his arms as if to embrace the audience. Tonight he does one better. He opens his heart.

There’s not just a vulnerability to performing alone with an acoustic guitar, these minimalist renditions give his already engaging musical stories fresh hits of immediacy and intimacy. Pair that with candid between-song chat, at times as poetic as his lyrics, and this evening in a rammed, sweaty basement venue is a masterclass in self-revelatory storytelling.

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Joe Bonamassa: Don’t fly away

Joe Bonamassa | Royal Albert Hall | 20 April 2017

(Photo credit: Laurence Harvey)

Joe Bonamassa has no trouble selling out two successive nights at Royal Albert Hall. He could certainly afford giant video screens to show his flying fingers in extreme closeup. Or, at the very least, his name in lights.

But this man on the precipice of 40 is not that kind of performer. A class act who’s clearly paid attention to the finest detail, from the subtly monogrammed music stands to the backing singers’ perfectly synchronised sashaying, he’s intentionally created an environment that doesn’t distract from why everybody’s really here: the music.

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Gregory Alan Isakov: Let’s put all these words away

Gregory Alan Isakov | Islington Assembly Hall | 3 April 2017

(Photo credit:

The last time Gregory Alan Isakov played London, all he had was a guitar, harmonica, two microphones, and 30 minutes. Five months later, he’s back with a full band. But, although the addition of guitar, banjo, fiddle, drums, and bass makes for a more powerful, visceral experience, the overall effect is far more intimate.

And that’s not just because the singer-songwriter is playing a smaller venue packed with his own fans, he actively goes out of his way to connect with the audience, encouraging them to shout out requests, sharing anecdotes that give insight into his creative process, and clearly having the time of his life with four – sometimes five – friends up on that stage. “This is seriously the best Monday night I’ve ever had”, he grins at one point, and you can’t help but believe him.

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Erja Lyytinen: Slowly burning

Erja Lyytinen | 100 Club | 11 April 2017

(Photo credit: Edyta Krzesak

Erja Lyytinen is a phenomenal guitarist. That’s a given. Not just technically brilliant – capable of playing with speed and precision, able to imbue every solo with unique character and tone – she has an edge over many other virtuosos: the ability to cram so much tangible emotion into six strings.  

So when she delivers the cascading, intensifying instrumental break of the magnificent ‘Black Ocean’, it’s as if she’s actually reliving the same dark feelings that went into lyrics like “I need some peace/ Please hear my call”. The jaw-dropping how-did-she-do-that slide solo of swampy Koko Taylor reimagination ‘I’m A Woman’ brims with a lifetime’s worth of admiration for the pioneering singer. And the high-energy performances that propel the nimble ‘Stolen Hearts’ and body-shakin’ ‘Rocking Chair’ overflow with an unbridled happiness.

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Sinkane: We’re all gonna be alright

Sinkane | The Dome | 29 March 2017

“Everything is fine/ We’re all gonna be alright,” sings Ahmed Gallab on the slinky ‘U’Huh’. And, for 80 glorious minutes, nobody inside The Dome can disagree.

Sunny enough to banish even the memory of Theresa May triggering article 50 this morning, Sinkane’s music turns out to be the perfect antidote to the bleakness of the world outside.

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