What: Sandi Thom
Where: Oxford Academy
When: 4th April 2011
Sandi Thom sits in that difficult position of outgrowing her original fan base, not so much physically but musically. Tonight in Oxford she shows off her musical adulthood.
The set starts odf quietly with Belly of the Blues gently introducing the audience to what many will hear as a new sound. However it wasn’t new to Sandi and had been part of her DNA since the early days I suspect. Her mammoth hit Punk Rocker catapulted Sandi to notoriety and firmly pigeon holed her as folk/pop. Belly of the Blues is the lead track on Sandi’s 2010 album Merchants and Thieves recently nominated as Blues album of the year in the British Blues Awards.
By the second number Heart of Stone the audience are left in no doubt about the feel for tonight’s show. The rousing blues rock number gets feet tapping and starts to really highlight Sandi’s solid and soulful vocals.
Most of tonight’s material is Sandi Thom’s originals and stand up well against the few covers performed. The band did a very good rendition of Fletwood Mac’s The Chain. the second half of this song most will recognise more as the music for the formula 1 motor racing. The band once again showed not only how tight they were but also what good musicians.
The other covers tonight were House of the rising sun which sounded better live than the version on Sandi’s Merchants and Thieves release and Albert King’s Why you so mean to me. This particular track had a very real de-ja-vu resonance. Sandi was joined on stage by an excellent Blues guitarist called Aaron Keylock. Aaron is only twelve years old which if my memory serves me correctly, was the age that Sandi’s partner Joe Bonamassa was when he joined BB King on stage. Joe went on to be regarded as one of the best Blues guitarists of his generation and I can see Aaron replacing him as the possible next generation.
I know Sandi has moved on musically from Punk Rocker however it’s still a great song and I found it a disappointment when the band played an alternative version. So alternative was the version that it was nearly half way in before the bouncer standing next to me nudged me and said “I know who she is now”. I am all for creative re-interpretation however the alternative version lost the essence of the original melody. When you do this you need to make sure it’s replaced with something special and I didn’t feel it was. I could have seen the alternative version working as a slip in to fool the audience as long as the original was also played. Sandi may have moved on from that time in her life but many of the audience will know her for nothing else and they are the ones paying the wages by their ticket sales.
Let that criticism not detract from the evening, Sandi and the band played some great heart felt Blues and really gave their all. Sandi is not only a great singer songwriter and guitarist but also a mean harmonica player too. Her vocals are excellent and carry the emotion of her writing well. Tracks such as Gold Dust should be major hits, they have the passion, regret and catchy melody that could easily be sung by Adele, Sandi just needs people to give her the chance to show what she is capable of.
Coming back for the encore were Sandi and backing vocalist Lindsey Cleary for an a Capella Ghost Town. This is a wonderful and touching vocal performance and one of the highlights on Sandi’s album and their vocals compliment each other perfectly. You could hear a pin drop and rightly so.
The gig may not have been sold out tonight but those there were there left in no doubt about the quality of Sandi’s music and live performance. Sandi’s current sound may well be one of the best kept secrets, so let’s hope Merchants and Thieves wins the album of the year with Sandi getting the recognition she deserves in the Blues/Rock arena and finally shrugs off those who heard and dismissed Punk Rocker.
Photos from tonight’s gig upstairs at the Academy can be found on her gallery.
You can listen to my interview with Sandi recoded earlier this year here.
/rant mode on: The management of the venue need to look at the lighting and make some small changes that would pay large dividends. All it would take would be a couple of white spots aimed across the primary positions at the front of the stage. The mostly rear lit stage would look so much better with these small additions. /end rant