As the “new normal” slowly settles in, the gig calendar is filling up and that sense of release, almost a degree of frisson, which one experienced when the first chords rang out after two years of sterile streaming isolation, might have dissipated for those who have resumed gig going. It’s as if lockdown was a decade ago rather than lasting until after Christmas. It’s humbling then to hear Annie Keating, all the way from Brooklyn, express her delight, indeed, the life affirming experience of playing to an audience again, several times during this tremendous show. Almost midway through a lengthy UK tour, Keating’s pent up energy blasts any Covid cobwebs away as she and her excellent band turned in a thrilling (and raucously rocking) performance.
The band are a trio of experienced UK musicians. On double bass and electric bass was Scott Warman who has performed with Keating on previous UK tours. Guitarist Joe Coombs and drummer Jamie Dawson met Keating for the first time just last week but you’d never guess that as the quartet meshed just about perfectly with nary a bum note to be heard (although they did have one false start). The sheer ferociousness of some of the songs surprised this reviewer who was expecting a tasteful, singer songwriter with backing band type of night, not banshee like Bo Diddley screaming guitars. No complaints here, this was manna from heaven.
It was the singer songwriter version of Keating which kicked off the show with an old song, ‘Belmont’, from the 2008 album of the same name. It’s a growing up and discovering rock’n’roll song, delicately delivered with Coombs’ gliding guitar sweetly wrapping itself around Keating’s wonderfully varnished voice. ‘For The Taking’ was delivered in a similar vein with a sweet country lope and then the gloves were off for a loud and swampy version of ‘On The Road By 10′ (another ‘Belmont’ song) followed by an even swampier, brooding delivery of ‘Kindred Spirit’, much nastier than the studio version on her latest album. The John Prine like ‘Hank’s Saloon’ billowed woozily from the stage with Keating suggesting that the washed up drunks looking forward to summer were somewhat akin to us getting back out again after being cooped up for so long.
Deliveries of ‘Marigold’, ‘Coney Island’ and ‘Water Tower View’ served to remind us of the fine writing to be found in Keating’s back catalogue while ‘Lovesick Blues’, a song from her tour only disc (‘Twenty 22 Tour EP’) brought us bang up to date. Explained as a lockdown exercise in finding uncommon words to rhyme with “Blue,” this was a razor sharp rockabilly like number which reminded one of The Blasters, with Coombs slashing away on guitar. The decibel count grew even higher as Dawson pummelled out a jungle beat which was joined by Warman’s rumbling bass notes when they barrelled into a hugely enjoyable primitive rendition of ‘On the Loose’. This was a wild ride with Coombs scattershooting the audience with Wilco Johnson like chicken scratch guitar and bursts of Bo Diddley and even James Burton licks. Another almighty rumble was the foreboding ‘Storm Warning’, again with the band at full tilt.
A justly deserved encore found Keating mentioning her sorrow at the pandemic induced loss of John Prine before she led the band (accompanied by tonight’s support artist, Demi Marriner) on a heartfelt ‘Angel From Montgomery’. An emotional end to what was a hugely enjoyable evening, a great opportunity to recharge one’s rock’n’roll soul battery.
The support act was the engaging Demi Marriner, Winner of Whispering Bob Harris’ Emerging Artist Award at the 2021 UK Americana Awards. Playing a selection of songs from her EPs and from her forthcoming debut album, ‘Mother’ was a fine celebration of the power of Motherhood, while ‘Don’t You Worry’ (with Scott Warman playing double bass) had a nice country influenced jaunt to it. Armed just with a guitar (Keating’s 1937 acoustic guitar in fact), a song like ‘Distorted Desire’, given a passionate delivery tonight, just begs for a band accompaniment given its Fleetwood Mac like subject and pop sense. She certainly won over the audience tonight and I expect we’ll hear more from her soon.