About two-thirds into her set, Joanne Shaw Taylor plays “Watch ‘Em Burn”. She and her stunning band (really, this is the best she’s ever had) let themselves go and it forms a centrepiece of the gig.
It’s more than that, though. This is a timely reminder that JST has always had this much talent. It’s two decades now since she was discovered, and she’s toured the world with her songs, and that seven or eight minutes however long it was, it feels like a celebration of that.
A celebration of the fact she’s on tour at all, maybe. She says it more than once, but she’s genuinely grateful to be here (her smile barely leaves her face). Taylor, more than most artists seems to need to be on the stage. It has always seemed to be where she’s happiest and where she’s best. Her constant, perhaps in a world that’s forever changing. Literally in the case of JST’s near hometown (“I didn’t recognise it, I couldn’t find my way out of the German Market last night!” she laughs).
It also helps that her last couple of albums, released in the last 15 months or so have been brilliant, and disparate. It makes for a wonderful show, one that is part blues (half of her “The Blues Album” is played) and part the melting pot that is her “Nobody’s Fool” record that came out a couple of months back.
It begins with one of the blues ones, “Stop Messin’ Round”, but the title track from that new album is one of her best already, it belongs in the set and it’s a fine example of what she’s doing.
There are others. Not least, a quite brilliant “Two Time My Lovin’” a cover of The Fabulous Thunderbirds and one that she does as “a fun song, not for the message, the message is bullshit!” she explains, sternly.
The band has the skill to pull this off, and never is this better shown than on “Three Time Loser”, where the keyboards shine so brightly, but JST herself is improving all the time, and the desert tinged “Bad Blood” is perfect. More Calexico than Joe Bonamassa, it’s a world away from what she’s done before (even if Billy Bob Thornton hasn’t done the video with her – nor will he go to Harry Potter World for Christmas…..don’t ask!)
After the aforementioned “…Burn” things move up a gear, “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” and “Just Another Word” are both magnificent, but there’s a wonderfully poignant moment. “Fade Away” sees the acoustic come out and a genuinely emotional tribute to her mother played. A real highlight, made all the more special by her niece and nephew being in the crowd to hear it for the first time.
“Runaway” is full of soul and gentle warmth, and new tune “Bad Love” finishing it off, before she dips back to her debut album for “Going Home” and the anthemic “Mud, Honey” which itself is nearly ten years old now, but doesn’t sound like it.
Joanne Shaw Taylor is always great. She’s one of the finest British born artists these days, but a Birmingham show always seems to bring out the best in her. Born just a few miles away, when she says “its good to be home,” it really does seem to be important. Having seen her many, many times over the last decade or so, I’d argue that she’s never sounded better than right here.
All photos David Pickles