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Story and photos by Andy ArgyrakisFor the first time in her more than 40 year career, Joan Armatrading is touring all by her lonesome, and if that wasn't significant enough, this outing also marks her final major world tour. With all that in mind, the esteemed singer/songwriter/guitarist sold out pretty much every date across England, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and America with no less than four at Chicago's cozy City Winery.
As far as the first night went (which was the 130th of the expansive outing overall), the frequent Grammy and Brit Award nominee switched between guitar and keyboard, while also piping in some pre-taped instruments that weren't really necessary given her solo billing, but never interfered with her mighty (albeit not always on key) delivery. Besides displaying distinctly deep vocals throughout lead off tunes like "City Girl" and "Promised Land," Armatrading also demonstrated her intelligence as a lyricist time and time again.
Some of her most articulate and thought provoking moments included the pop/rocker "More Than One Kind Of Love," the bluesy "My Baby's Gone" and the pleading "Woncha Come On Home," while the spirited "Love And Affection" came across as an all out anthem of passion. It's no wonder why she's considered right up there with the regarded likes of Laura Nyro, Joni Mitchell, Rickie Lee Jones and Janis Ian, also frequently rubbing off on everyone from Fiona Apple to Tracy Chapman, Melissa Etheridge and the Indigo Girls on down.
Another unique aspect to the show was Armatrading's storytelling time in between tunes, accompanied by career-spanning photo slide show to further grasp her global prominence (such as contributions to The Prince's Trust charity concert series alongside Tina Turner, Elton John and many others or meeting with Nelson Mandela, a self-professed fan of her work). As the 90 minutes wound down with the gentle "Willow," it proved bittersweet knowing this might be the last time Armatrading ever comes to town, though even if touring will taper, at least she's committed to never fully retiring from making records.
Joan Armatrading returns to City Winery in Chicago on Apr. 24 and Oct. 7-8. Every show is sold out, but those who sign up on the wait list will be alerted if additional tickets become available. Upcoming venue highlights also include Madeleine Peyroux with Pete Molinari (Apr. 25-27); Joe Louis Walker with A.J. Croce (Apr. 28); Alice Peacock with Anne Heaton (May 2, 7pm); David Lindley (May 3); Rufus Wainwright (May 4-6); Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell (May 10) and Lee Ann Womack (May 13). For additional details, visit www.citywinery.com/chicago/.
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