‘The First Lady of the Blues’ may be a somewhat overused tagline but in the case of Sari Schorr, and based on this performance at the superb St Helens Citadel Arts Centre, it is extremely difficult to think of a more fitting description.
A powerhouse performance saw Schorr bravely air a number of new songs from a much anticipated follow up album to last year’s hugely acclaimed Force of Nature with the more familiar and some fabulous covers.
Her backing band, the newly revamped Engine Room, isn’t half bad either!
Guitarist Ash Wilson, who chipped in with a version of his own Peace & Love from his Broken Machine album, complete with a mesmerising solo, held the audience spellbound. Bob Fridzema on keys, as always, turned out an impeccable performance principally during a luscious version of Oklahoma and still further underlined that there is life after King King.
With Mat Beable on bass and Roy Martin steering the rhythmic ship faultlessly from the rear, it’s left to Schorr to deliver the goods from the front and deliver she does, with a big flouncy bow and some glittery tags and paper to boot.
It’s the richness of the Brooklyner’s vocals that, of course, have marked her as being remarkable and never more have they been more extraordinarily emotive than during Black Betty, a wonderful cover of Bad Company’s Ready For Love and Led Zeppelin’s Rock and Roll which might well have made Paul Rodgers weep and Robert Plant quaking.
On top of all this, there’s the down-n-dirty Kiss Me alongside the raunchy cover of Willie Dixon’s I Just Wanna Make Love to You that sees Schorr at her intimate best. Making each song appear as though it is being sung to the individual rather than the room is an art in itself and is clearly a knack she has mastered.
But there is so much more to Schorr than her singing voice. Her enthusiasm, love of what she’s doing and the fact when she says she’s grateful for the support she’s received we actually feel she means it a little more than most, all adds to the sum of the whole and to an overall night of great music.
The new songs, the opening Welcome to the New Revolution and Can’t Mess especially, have the already high anticipation for album #2 soaring, but it is the tried and tested tunes such as Aunt Hazel that really highlights just how good Sari Schorr is at invoking passion, grit, empathy and out-and-out rock in single number.
‘First Lady of the Blues’ may be a somewhat overused tagline, yes but my goodness me, on this evidence, it’s a struggle to think of anyone else right now who deserves the title more than Sari Schorr.
Sari Schorr & The Engine Room
The Citadel Arts Centre, St Helens
January 20, 2018