Joan Armatrading @ Brighton Dome


Charming, endearing and heartfelt masterclass in emotive songwriting from Joan Armatrading.


On occasion, it's still possible to witness a truly great artist in a sized venue that retains a sense of intimacy. This is one of those occasions and finds the legendary Joan Armatrading taking to the stage in the impressive Brighton Dome.

To those not in the know, Joan Armatrading was the first black British female artist to gain significant international success. Having released a varied range of 19 albums in a career spanning over 40 years, there's an air of excited anticipation and theatricality in the seated audience. This date coming a month after a previously cancelled one after Armatrading was taken ill, only adding to the anticipation.

Forgoing any support act, Armatrading instead opts to provider her own support slot, playing her latest album Not Too Far Away in its entirety, joking: “the support slot is always songs that you don’t know”. This type of approachable and spritely wit is peppered throughout the show, which enamours herself with fans old and new.

Most impressive is how Armatrading is able to fill the enormous stage with only two pianos and her guitars, with her wonderful aura and huge presence. Her acoustic guitar melodies and husky vocals are the perfect delivery for her songs of loves both lost and powerfully felt.

With album played, she departs for a brief interlude before returning to much fanfare. On her return, Armatrading draws from her sizeable back catalogue to offer up a set of crowd-pleasers like 'Rosie' and 'Drop the Pilot', interspersed with more obscure tracks and songs not played since the early 70s. If Armatrading were to be paid by the number of times she says the word love throughout a set, she must be a very wealthy lady, and it's that single word that defines the most important theme throughout her work.

Jumping between acoustic guitars, grand piano and electric organ, this is an artist that exudes confidence and is cut from the same cloth of the 60s folk singers like Joni Mitchell, Richie Havens and Joan Baez, but as ever, with a little more love added. Armatrading is a storyteller first and foremost but her natural rhythm and unique vocalising make her a completely unique artist and it’s easy to see why she has endured for so long.

Her acerbic wit again announces the encore, as she reemerges to drop her two most enduring tracks, the emotive 'The Weakness in Me', and her incredible swansong 'Love and Affection.' Every song, even those more than 40 years old are played with the kind of raw and powerful emotion as if they were performed for the first time, and again she departs to rapturous applause and standing ovations from the well and truly hypnotised audience.

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