Live Reviews

Annie Keating Band – The Live Room, Saltaire: Live Review

Annie Keating Band – The Live Room, Saltaire – 25th September 2022

annie keating

She’s back! Annie Keating, our favourite Brooklynite, is back in the UK for a series of shows with her band. We caught up with the Annie Keating steamroller as it bustled into Saltaire, West Yorkshire. This is a tour that you miss at your peril…

Being a reviewer certainly has its perks. Take this past weekend, for instance – not only did I get to spend quality time with my Leeds-based offspring; I also got to have a look around the well-preserved Victorian model village of Saltaire, West Yorkshire, the settlement built by industrialist and philanthropist Sir Titus Salt in 1851 that is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and, best of all, I was able to enjoy a red-hot sparks-and-flames performance by The Annie Keating Band at Saltaire’s wonderful venue, The Live Room.

At The Barrier regulars will be well aware that we’re big, big fans of Annie’s particular brand of smoky Americana. We’ve raved and drooled unreservedly over her recent releases – 2021’s Bristol County Tides album, this year’s string of singles: Twenty-22, Feels Like Home, Sunshine Parade and, most recently, the sultry Lovesick Blues (all of which are, by the way, included on Annie’s 8-track mini-album, Twenty-22 Tour EP, available only at her shows). We also had the great good fortune to catch one of her live shows when she last visited these shores back in April – back then we described her performance at Chapel Arts Centre in Bath as “Unbridled, raucous and beautiful,” words that I’d happily apply once again after tonight’s buzzing show in Saltaire.

For her last jaunt around these islands, Annie had handpicked a UK-based touring band – Joe Coombs on guitars, Scott Warman on double bass and electric bass and Jamie Dawson on drums – each one a master of his craft. Back in April, the guys had just a couple of days to rehearse Annie’s material before they hit the road, and I was flabbergasted by the mastery and maturity that they were able to bring to the party. This time round, the guys are fully bedded in and the comfort that they felt with the material was plainly evident. Joe, who has played internationally with the likes of Grammy-nominated songwriter Yola, Jaime Wyatt, Laura Evans, Robert Vincent, Sam Morrow and Lynne Hanson was on top form. He’s managed to take the inspiration of Annie’s New York guitarist and producer, Teddy Kumpel (whose guitar prowess I’ve previously compared to Richard Thompson’s) and add oodles of his own style and personality to make his solos a sheer pleasure. Scott, who recently appeared on Bob Harris’s charity release of Stand By Me alongside Mark Knopfler, switches seamlessly between his double bass and his Fender Precision as the song requires and Jamie – a member of The Dreaming Spires and Steady Habits, and a regular contributor with Speedbuggy USA – has that rare, enviable ability to choose exactly the right intensity for every occasion, an absolute necessity for an act like Annie Keating whose songs can charm the listener to tears in one moment and rock like crazy the next.

It’s worth saying a word about the venue. The Live Room was a new on me, and it’s wonderful. It’s actually the concert room in Saltaire’s Caroline Club, located in the heart of the historic village, right next door to Sir Titus Salt’s mill. The concert space is a well-proportioned room with a handily-placed and well-stocked bar and it’s a venue that is putting on some great acts too – the forthcoming attractions advertised on a poster outside the hall include Lau, John McCusker Band, Gilmore and Roberts and Thea Gilmore – all acts that tickle the varied fancies of the At The Barrier team! The concert room is well laid-out, with tables and seating capacity for, I’d guess, a couple of hundred punters, and a combination of smart advertising and Annie’s growing reputation ensured that tonight’s show was a virtual sellout. It all made for a great atmosphere and Annie and the boys lapped it up.

The evening’s bill was meant to have included a spot from up-and-coming singer-songwriter Demi Marriner – like Annie, another of ‘Whispering’ Bob Harris’s proteges. Unfortunately, Demi was marooned in the Lake District following a car breakdown, so it was left to Annie and the band to carry the evening’s entertainment banner – a task they accomplished with pure distinction, as we shall see…

Just like she did on her April tour, Annie opened her set with the biographical, easy-feeling Belmont, a lovely get-to-know-you number to draw in any of the audience who were not yet aware of what all the Annie Keating fuss is about. Scott played his double bass and it was clear from the outset that the band were determined to have a good time. “This feels more like a Friday night gig than a Sunday night gig!” said Annie, clearly sensing the readiness of the audience to appreciate and enjoy. The mellow, easy feeling was continued with For The Taking, a song that gave Joe the space to deliver his first of what would turn out to be countless sweeping, stunning guitar solos. We weren’t fooled, by the way – we knew that, despite the soft and gentle start, tonight we were going to rock.. (something I knew for a fact, because I’d taken a sneaky peek at Scott’s setlist before the show started!)

It was lovely to hear Annie compliment the Saltaire audience for their respect for the music and their willingness to listen – behaviours that she noted are often absent amongst her US audiences. And we were rewarded handsomely as the band broke into Kindred Spirit, a firm favourite from the Bristol County Tides album and Joe gave us another smouldering solo. Next up was On The Road By Ten, another of Annie’s tales of life as a traveling musician. The song’s lyric, “Burning the candle at both ends/ Out until dawn and on the road by ten” tells a story of overwork and exhaustion, and Annie was particularly happy to announce that tomorrow would be a day off – “Any ideas of what we can do around Saltaire?” she asked (I’m sure that she got several recommendations to pop into the David Hockney exhibition…) On the Road by Ten is a down-and-dirty rocker, drenched in bottleneck guitar and the crowd loved it. “Don’t worry – we’ got more of that coming. I get the feeling that, after the pandemic, people want more rock ‘n’ roll,” said Annie. “Not half,” we agreed!

The sublime Water Tower View had me beating a path to the merch stand during the interval for a copy of the song’s 2010 parent album. It’s a wonderfully laid-back number and the band did it full justice – it felt like they’d grown up playing these songs rather than like they’d learned them just a few months ago. By the time we got to Lovesick Blues, Annie’s latest single, I’d started to get the genuine feeling that Annie’s time playing intimate venues like The Live Room may be limited. A polished, assured, gritty hard rocker, it’s a song that will surely help Annie reach the wider audience that she really deserves. But, in the meantime, it was great to feel the room rocking along.

The continuing support of Annie’s work from the aforementioned Whispering Bob was acknowledged in Annie’s intro to Feels Like Home, her single from March of this year. Annie delivered the intimate lyrics with true passion and Joe once again stepped up to the mark with some wonderfully understated guitar. Annie wrote Coney Island, her ode to Brooklyn’s famed seaside district for her son. Her lyrics are loaded with summery seaside memories and, she remarked, “It sure feels like summer tonight, in here!” And still the gems kept coming – Marigold, another firm favourite from Bristol County Tides took us to the interval. Marigold is, Annie tells us, a song about “being lit up from the inside” and Joe and the boys lit up the room with a delivery that was tight as a drum. “Don’t go away,” called Annie, as we headed for the bar…

Looking for Trouble, the opener for Part Two of the show gave Annie the opportunity to plug that exclusive Twenty-22 Tour EP “I’ll sign your copy and it’ll be worth a fortune on Amazon one day,” she (half) joked. Personally speaking, it’s one of my favourite tracks on the EP and I love the opening couplet: “I wasn’t looking for trouble, I wasn’t looking to fall/ I wasn’t looking for anyone special, coz I wasn’t looking at all.” It’s so typically Annie Keating! The lyrics to the brilliant Nobody Knows were inspired by the uncertainty that the pandemic brought, yet , following subsequent events around the world, lines like “I don’t wanna spend my time worrying about tomorrow” resonate evermore strongly. Once again, Joe’s solo was masterful and I found myself musing that anyone who can step so fully into Teddy Kumpel’s shoes must have mightily big feet!

It was time to crank up the pace and volume a few notches and the solid rocker, Storm Warning did the trick, before Annie decided to give a couple of brand-new songs an airing. The first, Lies And Dynamite, is a cowrite that Annie put together with Canadian singer-songwriter Lynne Hanson. The song is classic Annie with a slightly sinister edge and lots of urgency. The hopeful, happy, Valentine was another new one – another example of the self-reflections that Annie articulates so well – and the great, wonderful, news is that both songs are likely to feature on a new, full-length album that Annie is currently working on for release in early 2023. We’ll be watching that particular development closely and we’ll certainly be spreading news of the album as soon as we get it. If tonight’s appetiser was anything to go by, the main course should be something very special indeed.

No Annie Keating show would be complete without a run through Hank’s Saloon, Annie’s boozy, joyful invitation to forget our troubles and imbibe. At noon. The same could be said for On The Loose, a joyous Creedence-y stomp that had the whole room clapping along and almost had the entire building sliding down the bank into the adjacent Leeds-Liverpool Canal. Annie went down on her knees in appreciation of Joe’s swampy guitar solo (“I worry that when I do that, I may not be able to get up again…”) and the audience reaction was ecstatic.

And that was, very nearly, that. Annie’s traditional show-closer is the delightfully tender It Already Hurts When You Leave and tonight, the band delivered a steaming version. We couldn’t let them go and, without too much persuasion – they didn’t even have to leave the stage – they were back for a tear-jerking version of John Prine’s Angel of Montgomery. A wonderful song by any measure, Annie entered fully into the character of the elderly woman who bemoans her fate in the song’s lyric and, in doing so, held the audience transfixed. It was a wonderful ending to a vibrant show and I got the distinct feeling that there were many more Annie Keating devotees leaving that Saltaire room than had entered it just a couple of hours earlier.

The Annie Keating Band nailed it – thoroughly – in Saltaire on Sunday night. This tour is just three nights old and, already, the oil has seeped right into the cogs and the machine is running at maximum efficiency. My fervent advice is: Get yourself along to see the Annie Keating Band – it’s a choice that might just change your life.

We’ve shown you this one before, but we’ll show it again: Watch Annie and her touring band – Joe, Scott and Jamie – perform Lovesick Blues, her latest single, at Colchester’s Little Rabbit Barn during the band’s April 2022 UK tour, here:

Annie Keating Online: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / YouTube

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