Following his life-threatening battle with pancreatic cancer, we are all relieved to see Wilko Johnson back on the road again.

Tonight Wilko Johnson makes a welcome return to the North East, and a packed out show at the O2 Academy Newcastle.

What a treat it is for the fans in attendance tonight to have special guest Joanne Shaw Taylor joining Wilko on this run. Joanne is coming to the end of her touring cycle in support of The Dirty Truth. Her new album Wild, which was produced by Kevin Shirley (Joe Bonamassa), will be released in September before she embarks on a UK headline tour in October.

Taylor opens her set with a triple whammy of “Mud Honey”, the hard rocking “Outlaw Angel” and “Wrecking Ball.” What is apparent immediately is that Joanne Shaw Taylor is in the form of her life, and this is only the second show of the tour. Joanne passes comment at how happy she is to be starting the tour in Glasgow and Newcastle, as they always have the rowdiest crowds, much to the pleasing of the Geordie faithful in attendance.

Joanne slows down proceedings with the beautiful “Tried Tested and True”, which is the outcome of a relationship which ended around the time Joanne wrote her current album. The moral of the story being don’t cross your girlfriend who is a professional musician, otherwise who knows you may end up being song writing material.

The warmth of Joanne’s vocals, her wonderful tone, blistering guitar licks and appreciation of space make her the complete package. She can really make that Les Paul sing like a bird, particularly on the likes of the old favourite “Watch ‘Em Burn,” which is a rather apt song title as tonight Joanne Shaw Taylor is on fire.

Joanne Shaw Taylor’s powerful blues trio features local lad Tom Godlington (bass) and Oliver Perry (drums), who hold down a tight groove throughout. Taylor closes out her set with “Tied and Bound” and the title track from her latest offering “Dirty Truth.” Joanne’s hour long set leaves the audience wanting more, she exits the stage to rapturous applause.

Wilko Johnson bursts onto the stage with all guns blazing and all of the swagger we’ve come to know and expect, he glides from one side of the stage to the other grasping his trusty black and red Fender Telecaster. Wilko is full of energy, and it’s such a relief to see him in such fine form.

Johnson delivers a career spanning set with several Dr. Feelgood numbers featuring early on including the likes of “The More I Give” and the frantic “Going Back Home.” Rather than spending time nattering with the audience, Wilko takes a no-nonsense approach and rattles straight through the setlist.

Norman Watt-Roy, who is arguably one of the best bass players we have ever witnessed, launches straight into the unmistakable intro to “Roxette.” Who needs a second guitar player when you’ve got Norman Watt-Roy keeping the rhythm going all night long?

Wilko and Watt-Roy compliment each other really well with some great vocal harmonies during “Sneaking Suspicion” before “Everybody’s Carrying A Gun” turns into a full on jam, with both Watt-Roy and drummer Dylan Howe each taking the spotlight with a spellbinding solo.

Johnson and company close out their main set with the Dr. Feelgood classics “Back In The Night” and “She Does It Right,” which lights the blue touch paper in the room, the band leaves the stage to an ovation which sees them return for two further encores.

Paying homage to the legendary Chuck Berry, the night is brought to a close with covers of both “Bye Bye Johnny” and “Route 66,” which has the crowd dancing and singing along, they hang on every word. Wilko Johnson looks genuinely humbled by what he has witnessed tonight from the Newcastle faithful. Johnson will reprise his UK tour later in the year with support from Aaron Keylock, and he is not to be missed.

Wilko Johnson
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Joanne Shaw Taylor
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About The Author

Adam Kennedy is an experienced music photographer based in northeast England. He has been shooting concerts for several years, predominantly with the band Vintage Trouble. In 2013, he was one of their tour photographers, covering the UK and Ireland tour including the headline shows and as opening act for The Who. As an accomplished concert photographer, Adam's work has been featured in print such as, Classic Rock Blues Magazine, Guitarist Magazine, Blues in Britain magazine, broadcast on the MDA Telethon on ABC Television in the US, used in billboard advertising for Renaissance Hotels in the US, and featured online via music blogs such as Uber Rock and Guitar Planet. He is also the official photographer at Newcastle Rock and Blues Club.

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