Now in her 46th year in music, Joan Armatrading is currently on the road across the UK as part of her second-ever completely solo tour.

Such is the demand for this current run, that tonight’s show at the Sage Gateshead is a complete sell-out. This seems to have been the case for many shows on this current UK tour.

The beauty of tonight’s concert is that Joan Armatrading is performing two sets, so in effect, the Grammy Nominated artist is supporting herself. During the first half of the evening, Armatrading performs her brand new album Not Too Far Away in full.

Now you might think it’s a bold move to perform a new album that most in attendance have yet to hear, but the crowd are just as equally unlikely to have heard the material performed by a support act for the first time. Of course, the fans don’t seem to mind one bit.

In this day and age and with the advent of streaming, music fans tend to listen to their favourite songs rather than whole albums. Therefore, to hear Armatrading’s latest offering performed in full and as the artist intended it to be heard, is certainly a refreshing approach.

Not Too Far Away traverses a vast musical landscape, rich in heartfelt love songs that not only showcases Armatrading’s incredible songwriting ability but also the many different facets of her artistry.

Some songs in the set are performed on acoustic guitar with the aid of a myriad of pedals and loop stations to add texture and layers to these astounding compositions, whilst others such as the beautiful “No More Pain” and “Always In My Dreams” are performed from behind a Steinway Grand Piano at the side of the stage.

The first half of the show is brought to a close with a pair of songs which have a more up-tempo contemporary sound to them than the rest of the album tracks. This includes both “This Is Not That” and “Loving What You Hate”.

The second half of tonight’s show is all about the classics, as well as the occasional deep cut. Armatrading opens her set with the truly timeless “Down To Zero” before giving a rare airing to “Kind Words (And A Real Good Heart)” and “Travelled So Far”. The latter of which hadn’t been played live since 1975.

The crowd immediately starts to clap from the opening bars of fan favourites “All The Way From America”, before the reggae-tinged “Rosie” sparks a mass singalong. Armatrading kicks things up a notch with the soulful “Mama Mercy” before hit single “Drop The Pilot” closes out a career-spanning set that leaves the crowd wanting more.

A two-song encore featuring a beautiful rendition of “The Weakness In Me” and the unmistakable “Love And Affection” brings Joan Armatrading’s marathon performance to a close.

Tonight’s concert is the perfect representation of the award-winning British singer/songwriter’s extensive songbook spanning 19 studio albums.  It goes without saying that Joan Armatrading sings from the heart, and those in attendance this evening can certainly feel it.

After 46 years in the music business, Joan Armatrading is still going strong and showing no signs of slowing down.

Joan Armatrading
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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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