Joan Armatrading at Barbican

Published at 12:01AM, March 31 2015

It was an evening of fond farewells as Joan Armatrading welcomed us to the 120th night
of her “last major world tour”. First to go was her technical assistant, sacked after the
first number for deserting her post at the side of the stage. Only a joke it seemed,
although delivered by the star with a deadpan menace that made it difficult to be certain.

After this slightly awkward start, Armatrading, 64,was charm personified as she took off
on a one-woman voyage around her career. Accompanying herself on 6-string and
12-string guitars and keyboards, she applied her warm, husky voice to a set weighted in
favour of her acoustic singer-songwriter repertoire from the 1970s and 1980s, but
informed by the guitar-heavy emphasis of more recent albums, notably her 2007
collection Into the Blues
She pulled off some fabulous slide guitar on the blues holler My Baby’s Gone but the
electric guitar parts on Drop the Pilot and Me Myself I sounded a bit thrashy and
overdriven for the songs. However, the sense of occasion, coupled with Armatrading’s
tremendous rapport with an audience that has followed her for too long to stop just yet,
was more than enough to paper over any cracks.

Towards the end, Armatrading stopped playing and talked us through a slide-show of
career highlights: from young hopeful, pictured hanging around outside Ronnie Scott’s
club in 1973 to grand dame showing off her MBE in 2001. Along the way she was seen
rubbing shoulders with Paul McCartney, Elton John, Nelson Mandela and others, a
procession of proud, starry moments that contributed to the valedictory tone of the