Joan Armatrading enthralled an adoring audience at the Sunoco Performance Theater in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on Sunday, June 8, 2003. Her talented backing musicians featured keyboardist Spencer Cozens and percussionist and saxophonist Gary Foote.

     The accomplished musician, who has received an M.B.E., is out on tour to promote her latest effort Lovers Speak. Armatrading delivered a lengthy set, featuring a generous portion of these new songs, which were all well received by her throng of fans.

     Armatrading opened the show with "Drop The Pilot" sans guitar, released in 1983 on The Key. During the melodic "You Made Your Bed", a premiere performance from Lovers Speak, Armatrading lost her guitar pick and broke a string on her acoustic guitar. She made eyes at the audience and smiled, not missing a note in song.

     "Save Me" began with a solo vocal and electric guitar intro. Foote played brushes on the skins for effect, and Cozens quiet keyboard passage accentuated Armatrading's echoing guitar notes. "More Than One Kind Of Love" was foreshadowed by her poignant comment, "Friendship is very, very important". Cozens' moving piano chords generated spiritual warmth.

     Armatrading debuted the title track of "Lovers Speak" by encouraging the Harrisburg audience to go out and get the new disc. The confident melody showcased a piano and percussion intro, strengthened by the rhythm structure of her acoustic guitar.

     "Love Bug", another new number, was highlighted by an easy swing-style tempo that segued into a mild reggae . Armatrading's reggae-influenced guitar playing welcomed a relaxed musical atmosphere. She inserted a brief guitar solo before the band knocked out a series of musical pauses.

     Armatrading asked her fans, "Do you know Rosie? ... and are you prepared to sing?", as a prelude for "Rosie" from her 1979 EP. The reggae-flavored number was embellished by horn, organ, bass notes, and piano. Later in the song, she walked away from the mike, allowing the audience to finish the lyrics.

     Armatrading's electric guitar began "Me Myself I" from her 1980 album of the same title. Her strong vocals were complimented by a mellow march-beat. A stirring guitar solo and three-part harmonies by the band gave this performance an added boost on stage.

     Returning for an encore, Armatrading quipped, "I came back, I heard the commotion". She went on to ask, "Is there anything you ant to hear?", which prompted audience members to blurt out song titles all at once in an a public display of incoherent gibberish. Armatrading humorously retorted, "I got all that".

     Armatrading sang "Willow" to the accompaniment of organ supported by a lifting flute solo from Foote. She deferred to the audience to finish singing the lyrics to the mellow number. "Blessed", the final encore and last musical slice from Lovers Speak, was a tender piece, expressing her personal feelings she composed in song.

     The West Indies native recorded her first album in 1972. Lovers Speak appears after an eight year recording hiatus. Armatrading's new material came off strong live in performance. Her decision to strip down the arrangements and establish a three-piece band approach has revitalized her stage repertoire in an exciting new musical presentation.

Harrisburg setlist: Drop The Pilot * Down To Zero * All The Way From America * Prove Yourself * Physical Pain * In These Times * Is It Tomorrow Yet * You Made Your Bed * Tender Rap * The Weakness In Me * Less Happy More Often * Let's Talk About Us * Join The Boys * Save Me * Everyday Boy * More Than One Kind Of Love * Love And Affection * Crazy For You * Lovers Speak * Bottom To The Top * Love Bug * Rosie * Mama Mercy * Kissin' And A Huggin' * Me Myself I * Encore: Willow * Blessed

RockonTour   Issue #22
Concert Fan - the Single Source for the Concertphile © 2003 RoT
                  the Single Source for the Concertphile

When music speaks volumes
Joan Armatrading captivates Harrisburg

by Timothy Tilghman