I have to confess that I didn’t know a lot about Erja Lyytinen prior to this visit to the 100 Club (which has hosted some fabulous blues acts already this year and is, amazingly, one of London’s seemingly hidden treasures – just ask anyone who’s not a regular gig attender and watch their blank look, matched only by your own incredulous expression at their shameful lack of knowledge) apart from clocking the quite striking image of her on recent promotional material and a few listens to her last album “Stolen Hearts.”
Arriving in the nick of time hot from the airport (not quite an international jet setter as the plane only travelled from Edinburgh) the star of the show was announced on stage as I walked down the stairs into the venue and the set began with the infectious bubbling bass line of “Lover’s Novels” and some tasty slide playing from the stunning band leader, the ensemble hitting the sweet spot right from the get go. No blues growler, Erja sings melodically in Scandinavian tinged tones, her songs having strong, memorable choruses; the opener and the following number “Black Ocean” with it’s distinctive riffing motif being good examples. The latter featuring the Finn’s flowing, dreamy prog like guitar work; not so much a solo, more a long structured instrumental section that built up in layers of attractive harmonies, maintaining interest throughout; this song also demonstrated her adventurous approach to song arrangements; no typical verse, verse, chorus, solo etc but, instead, almost two completely different first and second parts to the song. A similarly bold approach was evidenced with Erja featuring a number of songs from her, at the time of the gig, yet to be released (and really good) album “Another World”, the first of which was “Hard as Stone”, opening with staccato chords before developing into another melodic chorus with expansive backing.
It has to be said that Erja really knows how to sell her songs; from the opening moments she engaged with the audience and with an infectious smile seemed to be having as good a time as the enthusiastic crowd. It obviously helps that she is an eye-catching figure, long hair scraped back at the sides, bunched on top and flowing behind her; heavy make-up, tight green leather trousers and a fabulous performance jacket all adding to her stage presence and topped off by a variety of brightly coloured Stratocasters which she played throughout the evening with great confidence, ripping out lengthy flourishing runs without breaking sweat. On “Slowly Burning” from her last album, Erja had the opportunity to play some classic blues licks to accompany the moody original number, which she did brilliantly, her excellent band keeping it tight behind her; the cheerful looking bass player with his top knot and tiny wispy beard, the stylish, waist-coated drummer also with a top knot (big look in Finland?) and eye-liner, accompanied by the serious looking, undemonstrative, bearded keyboard player, emitting a Greek Orthodox minister vibe. Later in the set, the only nod to traditional blues was made with a version of “Dust my Broom” that of course featured Erja’s neat slide guitar work. New songs, from her recently released album Another Day, including “Cherry Overdrive” and “Snake in the Grass” came over strongly and will no doubt feature in the guitarist’s live set for some time to come. The set ended with a long section of audience participation led by Erja, which began with her getting the audience to count to 7 in Finnish, followed by a bit of call and response before she launched into, what I’m sure is a live staple, “Rocking Chair” with it’s soaring slide guitar (capo on the second fret, for guitarists out there!). The set ended with a great version of Jimi’s “Crosstown Traffic” (for which Erja blew a mean kazoo!). A very enjoyable evening of excellent guitar playing and really good songs performed by a charismatic and highly watchable musician. I’m looking forward to catching her on her next pass through London.
Check out Bluesdoodles Review of Another Day
Check out Our Conversation with Erja Lyytinen talking about Another Day Touring and more