Bristol Colston Hall Review

  • By The Bristol Post
  • Sunday, 06 March 2016
  • Joan Armatrading


    PHOTO albums are special no matter who you are. They hold such precious memories, snapshots of loved ones and cherished places. But then there's another league of photo album and that's Joan Armatrading's incredible snapshots from across her lengthy career. With quiet pride she stood centre stage as huge images from her high flying photo album showed just quite what high regard she's held in. Dancing with Paul McCartney, singing alongside Elton John, sharing a joke with Nelson Mandela, as well as her delighted smile at accepting her MBE, her picture in the National Portrait Gallery and an iconic African-inspired snap taken by none other than Lord Snowdon were just some of the gems.

    This is a woman whose extraordinary talent has taken her to some high-up places and who shows no sign of slowing down. She's adored by her fans who cheered her on stage, clapped loudly as she introduced songs before even singing a note and who gave her a standing ovation to leave the stage. The warmth of the crowd is mirrored by her own good natured lively, dry humour. Throwing jokes into the mix between songs she seemed almost ageless as she grabbed her guitars for frenzied riffs, followed by laments on her keyboard, wandering around the stage as easily as if it were her own living room, she was completely at ease.

    She's recently been ill and had to reschedule some shows, her Bristol performance was her third gig back after recovering but other than a perhaps more throaty voice than usual, she seemed totally in her stride. A varied set list mixed up some of her earlier pieces from back in 1972, kicking off with City Girl for a relaxed comfortable beginning, showing off her unique, strong voice, rich in experience with a hint of gravel and at times with almost a gospel feel to it. She got toes tapping to All The Way From America and pulled at the heartstrings with a deeply powerful song in In These Times. Mamma Mercy offered an uptempo piece, performed with attack and peppered with higher pitch offerings of just what her varied vocal can do. There was a hint of rock to My Baby's Gone which was full of musical variety with twists and turns. She played Down To Zero, while Kissin' and a Huggin' had a jazz, rock and blues feel all thrown in. The Weakness In Me earned her enormous applause with a heartfelt song with a strong storytelling element and her much-loved favourite Love and Affection couldn't have been better received.

    She's a gutsy performer with soul who exudes a down-to-earth charm that has endured across more than 40 years. Her fans adore her and with such a fantastic solo show, it's easy to see why she's still selling out venues after all this time.