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Review: Joan Armatrading at Sage Gateshead

Seasoned entertainer Joan Armatrading shared her music and her memories in an impressive Sage performance

Joan Armatrading
Joan Armatrading

The evening started with The Sea Kings, an enthusiastic folk trio from Cornwall who were selected for the support slot in a programme (LocalTalent) that Joan Armatrading has been running to support and encourage new acts.

This concert in Gateshead was the 109th of her first major solo tour which is also her last major world tour.

In the past Armatrading has toured with the backing of a sizeable band.

A large on-stage screen informed us she would be accompanied this time by material she had created and recorded for the concert. What this would be, we had to wait and see.

After introducing herself and the format of the evening to the capacity audience, the first song of the night was City Girl from her first album back in 1972.

She continued through her back catalogue, alternating between guitars and piano. She seemed to be teasing us, her demeanour suggesting she felt among old friends that she was pleased to see.

Taking a break from her music, she stood in front of the large screen projecting photographs covering her long career.

It felt more like a traditional family slide show than a corporate powerpoint presentation.

But Armatrading, rightly proud of her career and achievements, has been photographed by some of the 20th Century’s foremost portrait photographers.

She has also been featured in a Beano cartoon strip and chatted to Nelson Mandela who asked to meet her because he was a fan.

As is expected she played Love and Affection, Drop the Pilot, Me Myself I and many other favourites. She also played blues rock from her bestselling Into the Blues album.

The evening finished with Willow and the audience gently sang along with the chorus.

For over 40 years Joan Armatrading has been sharing her emotions through her music. On this occasion, in a brave and impressive performance, she also shared her memories.

Martin Ellis


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