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Thursday 8th October 2015
Drill Hall in Lincoln, UK
Reviews & Photography by Mark Holmes
Finding themselves back in the cathedral city of Lincoln just over a year after they last ventured here, as support to Ian Hunter in the very same venue, are Stockport's Federal Charm. Casually wandering out onto the Drill Hall's stage at 8pm in front of a fully seated audience, and arming themselves with classic Fender and Gibson instruments, it's a telling sign of their compositional leanings. And, sure enough, their half hour set is loaded with retro rock pastiche with distinct blues flavours. While they offer nothing by way of musical innovation, and I guess they have no pretence of such, Federal Charm perform their arsenal of classic rock inspired tunes both slickly and with a refreshing burst of energy. Apart from a down-tempo, bluesy take on Pink Floyd in 'Reconsider', it's predominantly an up-tempo, dynamic affair as the musicians bounce around the stage while blasting their music to a static crowd. I guess it's always difficult to judge how well a band's received with everyone's arses firmly rooted to their seats for the duration, as there's zero reciprocation between band and audience during each song, although the loud applause after each track that's aired is gauge enough that these Mancunians seem to go down extremely well. And rightfully so. Frontman Nick Bowden has one hell of a powerful voice, which is perhaps a little too high in the mix on occasion, mainly over songs' quieter passages, although all is much better balanced when they exercise their heavier side. Guitarist Paul Bowe impresses with his fretboard widdling, while sticksman Danny Rigg puts in a solid performance behind his kit. In fact, at a quick glance, Rigg bears more than a passing resemblance to everyone's favourite eccentric enunciator Matt Berry... I guess it's all in the hair and beard. All in all, Federal Charm are a solid opening act, and I would like to say they do a fine job of warming up the crowd ahead of Joanne Shaw Taylor... but, it's simply impossible to tell, such is the peculiarly subdued atmosphere amongst the seated punters.
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Joanne Shaw Taylor at the Drill Hall, Lincoln, UK, 8th October 2015
Photograph copyright 2015 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
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Half an hour after Federal Charm vacate the stage, Joanne Shaw Taylor, along with her rhythm section of drummer Oliver Perry and bassist Tom Godlington, appear at 9pm prompt, to huge cheers from a still seated audience. Judging by the large contingent of older punters present, I guess seats are more than welcome by many. It seems the blues rock genre attracts fans of more mature years, such is its retro underpinnings although, apart from between-song applause, the bizarrely subdued atmosphere in the Drill Hall continues throughout Joanne's hour and a half set. A short way into proceedings, while changing guitars and retuning, you'd even be able to hear a pin drop, such is the reticent nature of the audience, which prompts her to say, "either you're really quiet or I've got used to Glaswegian crowds!"... silence... apart from one guy laughing. In fact, the majority of Joanne's occasional attempts to address those in the near-sold out venue with a little banter are met with the same muted reaction, so it's fair to say that the atmosphere in the Drill Hall is a rather odd one. On the positive side, it could be observed that tonight is all about the music and people's introspective appreciation of such, rather than expressing any overt displays of emotion themselves. The emotional expression is left solely to Joanne and her band as the trio deliver a set that draws from her four albums to date, with the bias on last year's 'The Dirty Truth'.

While blues rock at core, the ninety minute show is a pleasingly varied one, with mixed-tempo tunes and sporadic stylistic detours, including a mid-set acoustic section that sees Joanne perform the poignant 'Almost Always Never'. A song she describes in a preamble as born from the heartache she felt of losing someone close to her for the first time in her adult life, whether or not her compositional intentions were cathartic here, it's performed with discernibly heartfelt sentiments of love and loss... a truly moving moment in the set. And there are many more moments of affectively stirring, mood-driven displays of masterful musicianship. Perry and Godlington both put in solid performances, albeit the latter is visually as subdued as the audience, rarely looking up from the stage floor (perhaps this guy's musical background is a shoegaze one?!), although it's Shaw Taylor herself who drives proceedings with her gravel-toned vocal delivery that's loaded with as much soulful sway as it is with ballsy swagger. And her guitar work, be it through lick, solo, or rhythm, is a flawless demonstration of how to balance out raw emotion with technical ability. She has such a delicate touch while working her strings in the most exquisite of ways during songs' more down-tempo, gentle passages, right up rocking it out in bursts of heavy crescendos with her full-on frenzied fretboard attack.

By the conclusion of tonight's show, as the musicians leave the stage, even Lincoln's previously subdued audience eventually let loose by stamping on the floor while ubiquitous chants of "encore... encore... encore" can be heard. And they're rewarded with an airing of the latest album's title track, which Joanne informs them to be a "fictional song about shooting my boyfriend". This engenders many laughs (it's only taken ninety minutes to get 'em all fully engaged), 'The Dirty Truth' is played, and the night ends with a fittingly uplifting vibe with artist/audience reciprocation at one. A triumphant return to Lincoln for one of the blues rock genre's most exhilaratingly entertaining artists.
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