On Friday night April 7, 2023, Joanne Shaw Taylor performed a concert at the Elsinore Theater in Salem, Oregon. She kicked off her 90 minute set with the first of six covers from her 2021 release The Blues Album. “Stop Messin’ Round” is a “Fleetwood Mac” song written by Peter Green when it was a blues band in its first incarnation. The band rocked as Joanne demonstrated her guitar prowess with passionate playing. Her band was comprised of Eric Savage – drums, Phil Whitfield – keys, Joseph Spina – guitar and Steven Lehane – bass. “I Want You to Love Me” immediately followed with an ample display of Taylor’s virtuosity on the guitar with two solos between verses. It was a rearranged composition originally written and recorded by Otis Rush in 1959 under the title “Keep On Lovin’ Me.” Song #3 was “Nobody’s Fool,” the title song from Joanne’s 2022 album with a sarcastic view of relationships with others. The band jammed with a throbbing beat to support Taylor’s vocals singing.
“Cause when you’re nothing to nobody baby
Then you’re nobody’s fool”
Joanne said hello to the crowd and said that she was going to play a blues song that she loved as she introduced “If You Gotta Make a Fool of Somebody.” It was an R&B number by early 1960s artist James Ray and she sang it from the heart. It included another guitar solo with Spina countering Taylor’s guitar licks as the playing escalated. It appeared on The Blues Album in 2021 along with the next song, Albert King’s “Can’t You See What You’re Doing to Me.” It begins with a screaming guitar and then Joanne begins singing “Hey baby” followed by more stinging guitar and more “Hey Baby’s” until her playing escalates into wild speed guitar before Spina comes in followed by the entire band joining in and concluding the song together.
“Thank you very much” Taylor told the crowd and introduced another cover from The Blues Album that was written by Kim Wilson and originally performed by the “Fabulous Thunderbirds” called “Two Time My Lovin’”. She explained that the album was recorded during the pandemic and she couldn’t do a tour playing it in front of an audience. She criticized the premise of the song, saying that if her lover two timed her she’d dump them and find another. Phil Whitfield pounded his keys as Taylor, Spina and Lehane all stood at their microphones and sang together in harmony until everyone jammed together on their instruments while the song concluded with Taylor performing a stellar solo.
“Let Me Down Easy” is a Cash McCall (Maurice Dollison) cover that was first recorded by Little Milton in 1968. It’s also on The Blues Album and Spina played lead guitar from the opening while Joanne sang before she took over and concluded the song with another scorching solo. The last cover from The Blues Album was Wilson Pickett’s “Three Time Loser”, a rocking number with the entire band in harmony. The keyboards were dominant as Joanne and Lehane on bass played off each other until she walked left stage and wailed on her axe before singing another verse and closing with a guitar solo. “Dyin to Know” appeared on the Wild album released in 2016 along with Blues From the Heart, a live album from 2022. The song was co-written by Taylor along with James House. The sound was thundering as the entire band played a throbbing beat behind Joanne singing and playing another scorching solo.
“Bad Blood” is from Joanne’s most recent 2022 album Nobody’s Fool. After Joanne introduced the band she joked about how when she wrote it she was imagining that she was playing the song for a library full of naked people. She wanted to make a spaghetti western video for the song and her manager was friends with Billy Bob Thornton for the past 30 years. She imagined doing it with Billy Bob and she talked to Joe Bonamassa who was producing her album and he didn’t go for the idea. The song is a hard rocking driving indictment with Taylor passionately singing.
“Won’t Be Fooled Again” was also from Nobody’s Fool but this time, she explained her idea for a video worked out and she was allowed to give input and wanted everything cheesy in a 1980s styled video. “Won’t Be Fooled Again” is a very 1980s sounding song reminiscent of the Thompson Twins. “Watch ‘em Burn” from her first album in 2009’s White Sugar followed and Joanne changed guitars from her Fender to a Gibson and she began with a hard and heavy guitar sound with Spina playing along side her as she began singing –
“I never knew that words could hit so hard
You let them fall like rain.”
She played a delicate to screaming guitar solo as the band played a tight accompaniment to a bring down the house conclusion. “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” first appeared on 2019’s Reckless Heart and in 2022 on the live album Blues From the Heart. It begins with the guitar segueing into Taylor singing “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” followed by another explosive solo and then more of her torrid voice. Before playing “Just Another Word” she changed back to her Fender accompanied by driving drums throughout the song that almost had a Motown sound. She delicately played her guitar before launching into a short solo followed by the entire band joining in for a final low key jam to conclude.
Taylor changed guitar once more by donning an acoustic guitar as she asked the crowd: “How you doing, good?” She began to explain that her mother died ten years ago when Joanne was 28 but now that she was 38 she wanted to ask her mother questions. Since she couldn’t she write a song about death that wasn’t meant to be negative emotionally. She began playing “Fade Away” and was only accompanied by Whitfield on piano and Spina on electric guitar as the other members left the stage. Both “Fade Away” and “Runaway” that followed were from 2022’s Nobody’s Fool. Once again she had her Fender for “Runaway” which was a happy and bright up-tempo song with the band going full throttle while Joanne ecstatically played her instrument.
The final song of the night was “Bad Love” from 2019’s Reckless Heart. It was a rip snorting driving number led by a hard drumming cadence and screaming guitar. The band jammed while Taylor moved around the stage to jam with each band member until the volume hit the ceiling and her guitar peals reached into the ionosphere. After concluding the song and leaving the stage for a few minutes the audience clapped and whistled until the band returned for an encore. They dove into “Going Home” a Western sounding song featuring Joanne’s throaty vocals and stellar guitar work from 2013’s Songs From the Road to conclude the night’s performance.