Erja Lyytinnen – Harmonie 02.02.2020

Girls certainly do wanna have fun.  This girl does at any rate.  Erja Lyytinen has been a top-line purveyor of quality slide guitar for some years now, but she still hits the stage with an infectious enthusiasm that would put many a newcomer to shame.  Since her last appearance at Bonn Harmonie there is also a new disc to enjoy – ‘Another World’ with it’s slick packaging is a sign of slick playing onstage.  Is that good or bad?  There are unlikely to be any complaints about the standard of playing or the enthusiasm from tonight’s equally enthusiastic audience for sure.  It’s a very different Erja Lyytinen though from the one I saw here some years ago with Davide Florene, Roger Innis and Miri Mietinen, where the line generally greyed only between Blues and Rock.  The current Erja Lyytinen set blurs into Jazz, Pop and Soul with heavier Rock overtones than before.

It’s a Sunday evening.  Not the best day for getting a big audience at a gig.  There is too that odd, primaeval Rock Music feeling that indoor gigs should be starting at 10 pm rather than ending at such an early hour.   That’s not the band’s fault though and the audience is large enough to create a good relaxed atmosphere to welcome Finland’s finest Blues guitarist.  The early hour is quickly forgotten anyway when Erja steps onto the stage in a shimmering jacket and tight trousers – looking pretty damn good for the mother of twins.

The opener, ‘Don’t Let a Good Woman Down’, has been a tried and tested crowd-pleaser since its release on 2010’s ‘Voracious Love’ and it’s insistent slide riff promises good things for the next two hours.   Tonight’s set though doesn’t stretch too far back again after that opening number.  Aside from 2008’s ‘Everythings Fine‘ the set was firmly divided between the two most recent releases:  2017’s ‘Stolen Hearts’ and the new ‘Another World’.  The former was shaped in no small part by Lyytinen’s break-up which adds an extra dimension of authenticity to the heart wrenching ballad  ‘Slowly Burning’  “Don’t draw me in to your wicked cage”  she implores –  “Don’t wanna be slowly burning”.  In the song of the same name there are “Lovers Novels on the kitchen table” and it’s clear “There’s Something Going On.  You don’t wanna belong”.   

I’m reminded of another Blues player, Danny Bryant, who stood on this very stage and revealed that his new disc ‘Means of Escape’ was a description of what music meant to him.   It clearly means the same to Erja Lyytinen.  2019’s ‘Another World’  still has it’s disillusioned outlook.  ‘Wish You Were A Stone, So you could be as hard as one’ though has a harder edge than the material on the earlier disc.  It thuds along courtesy of Tatu Bakc’s bass and is filled with wailing rock guitar.

On ‘Wedding Day’ the song’s two-timed would-be bride announces defiantly “So I posted status single.  It is time to start to mingle.  Something old, something new,  Something blue to replace you!”.  Sonny Landreth accompanied me on this one”  she points out, and with a wink and a smile says what a nice guy he is.  This girl is a survivor and ‘Another World’ is clearly a description of where she is right now.    The lyrics say it, but the music punctuates it clearly too with a heavier, rockier edge than on previous outings I’ve caught with Erja’s live shows.

Finishing the actual set with a live favourite “Rocking Chair’ the audience is still cheering her loudly five minutes later when she comes back out, plugs in, and begins to play… “Old MacDonald Had A Farm”.  The sort of thing she loves to sing to her twins when she is at home she confides.  Has anyone else ever segued from “Old MacDonald” into Hendrix’ ‘Crosstown Traffic”?  There might be a lot of polish to Erja Lyytinen shows in 2020, but there is steel shining brightly through it.  I’m still a little disappointed that the set is so radically modern.  No more room for some of my earlier Lyytinen favourites like ‘Steamy Windows’ or ‘Soul of a Man’. 

Erja’s own material just keeps getting stronger lyrically though and I guess the old songs belong to a different Erja, a different band and a different era.  On the subject of strong writing, there is a new book out called ‘Blueskuningatar’.  Yep, Finish fans will be happy.  The rest of us will have to wait for its English language equivalent “Queen of slide guitar” to come out later this year.  If it’s even half as good as the lyrical confessions from the songs this evening, then it will be an emotional read for sure.


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