Joan Armatrading - gig review

Jimmy Brewer was Joan Armatrading's support act at the Oxford Playhouse and he sang six songs on acoustic guitar. It's always difficult for the support act if the audience are unfamiliar with them and anxious to see the headline, but by the end of his set Jimmy had a rapport and respect from the crowd. He played material from his first and second albums including 'Days, Weeks, Years', 'Velcro Girl', 'Northern Shores', 'Watching Records Go Round and Round' and 'Cloud 10'. His songs were about love, relationships and that special someone. They were charming and honest without being overly sentimental. My favourite track was 'Northern Shores'. In the break I got to speak with him in the foyer - how did he get to be the support act for Joan? Joan held a talent competition, about sixty acts took part and she invited some back to support her on this tour. To date Jimmy has played about eight gigs as support for Joan Armatrading on her last major world tour. Jimmy is from Lincolnshire, now lives in Buckinghamshire and if you visit his website you can get two free tracks off his album. I have!

Joan Armatrading walked on stage to a rapturous applause and to cries of 'We love you Joan'. Joan's set was expectedly brilliant and she was unexpectedly hilarious. She quipped "Not sure what I've come on here for" and "have you got any plans for this evening?" Tonight was the 150th concert of this world tour so we should forgive her for being a little tired and "you've been a great audience I've really enjoyed myself" Joan jokingly threatened to finish the gig after the third song.

Joan played all the instruments switching between six string acoustic and twelve string electric guitar as well as piano, showing her mastery of pop, blues, rock and jazz. A screen behind her projected images to accompany each song. Joan's gig was a retrospective of her forty year career in music. Joan talked through a slide show of her career highlights: her first album in 1972 to her first hit single 'Love and Affection' in 1976, playing to festival crowds of 250,000 with Bob Dylan, being the first non jazz artist to perform on the main stage at Ronnie Scotts, meeting Nelson Mandela, her work as patron of the Princes Trust, to being the first UK female artist to get to number 1 on the US Billboard Blues Chart for her 2007 album 'Into the Blues'.

Joan played all her hits including 'Drop the Pilot', 'Willow', 'The Weakness in Me', 'Me, Myself, I' 'All the Way from America' and 'Down to Zero'. Joan threatened not to play 'Love and Affection' after stating she's included it in every concert since 1976. She checked after singing it, that we weren't leaving!

Joan kept the audience on our toes by playing with convention, we weren't there to judge her, she gave us (the audience) feedback on our performance. After the gig Joan decided to stay on stage so that she could see for herself how many whistles and cheers there were for the encore.

Joan Armatrading is such an influential British figure in our musical history and landscape. Joan has achieved firsts for UK female artists and these are incredibly important. From Joan Armatrading's website: In 1973 Joan was named the outstanding New Artist of of that year in a critics' poll in the trade magazine MUSIC WEEK
Joan Armatrading became the very first UK female singer/songwriter to gain international success.
In 2007 Joan Armatrading became the first female UK artist to debut at number 1 in the Billboards Blues chart.
Joan Armatrading became the first ever female UK artist to be nominated for a Grammy in the blues category.

I wholeheartedly recommend to see her last major tour. Seeing Joan live has made me pore over her back catalogue which will keep me occupied for some time.

Joan's world tour continues in the UK in July and August.

(c) Wendy Thomson 2015
reviewed at the Oxford playhouse Thurs 28th May 7.30pm - 10pm (2015 Tour Dates)
Joan talks about her tour on BBC Breakfast 2015

Author's review: