Erja Lyytinen

Erja Lyytinen: Slowly burning

Erja Lyytinen | 100 Club | 11 April 2017

(Photo credit: Edyta Krzesak www.edytakphotography.com)

Erja Lyytinen is a phenomenal guitarist. That’s a given. Not just technically brilliant – capable of playing with speed and precision, able to imbue every solo with unique character and tone – she has an edge over many other virtuosos: the ability to cram so much tangible emotion into six strings.  

So when she delivers the cascading, intensifying instrumental break of the magnificent ‘Black Ocean’, it’s as if she’s actually reliving the same dark feelings that went into lyrics like “I need some peace/ Please hear my call”. The jaw-dropping how-did-she-do-that slide solo of swampy Koko Taylor reimagination ‘I’m A Woman’ brims with a lifetime’s worth of admiration for the pioneering singer. And the high-energy performances that propel the nimble ‘Stolen Hearts’ and body-shakin’ ‘Rocking Chair’ overflow with an unbridled happiness.

The effect is amplified by the intimacy of the venue, the 100 Club’s layout giving a clear view of her fingers at work on the fretboard, those feet tapping one effect pedal after another, her signalling the sound man to turn up the keyboards – mid-solo no less, and the broad smile frequently crossing her face.

Lyytinen has good reason to feel happy. Beyond the all-guns-blazing performance she and her band deliver, tonight’s the launch of ‘Stolen Hearts’, her most accomplished, well-rounded, and ambitious album yet. Very well represented in the setlist, these brand new songs are recreated with as much confidence and nuance as old favourite ‘Grip Of The Blues’. From the keyboard-guitar duet on ‘Lover’s Novels’ to the accelerating drum solo that almost pushes ‘Rocking Chair’ to tipping point, there’s nothing tentative about their delivery – and that includes the guitarist’s singing.

‘Slowly Burning’, with its instrumentally subdued ending, especially shows off not just the power but the subtlety of Lyytinen’s vocals. As on her latest LP, tonight they’re front and centre where they belong, right there with the majestic sounds coming from those blue guitars.  

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