Minutes before Corinne West took to the stage at The Borderline, one of London’s most iconic music venues – and the excitement is palpable. It is six years since Corinne toured here as a solo performer and this performance which is part of the Starlight Highway tour has attracted people from all corners of the UK. The audience is a healthy mix of young and old which is a reflection on Corinne’s music as it is steeped in musical heritage but at the same time not afraid to push the barriers and break new ground.
Tonight’s performance sits in the halfway mark of the UK tour which consists mainly of seated shows in arts venues and theatres, so this reviewer was intrigued as to how Corinne West would approach a show in a stand up rock’n’roll venue. Needless to say she ‘rocked it’, greeted by whoops and hola’s after every song and wearing her trademark hat Corinne launches her set with ‘Been Around the World’ before going into the sublime ‘Cry of the Echo Drifter’ from her latest record release.
For this tour Corinne West is accompanied by UK based multi instrumentalist Sam Lawrence whose musicianship is masterful as demonstrated on the rockin ‘Deep Ellum Blues’ with its soaring electric guitar solo matched by Corinne’s incredible vocal range. It is at this stage we begin to suspect that we are witnessing something very special here. ‘Sweet Rains of Amber’ is music in its most beautiful and purest form with close vocal harmonies from Corinne and Sam, backed by mandolin and acoustic guitar, this song transport’s you to a whole new plain of existence as suggested by the album title it is from ‘Starlight Highway’.
Corinne’s stage presence is a joy to behold and her skill in using the microphone to its maximum potential by knowing when to back away and when to come up close turns her vocals into an intricate instrument in their own right, as was shown on the epic ‘Lady Luck’. Corinne West has always seemed comfortable with the ‘Americana’ label as it covers a variety of genre’ s which comes out in her live performances. Included here was a cover of the Country classic ‘ The Gambler’ her own Country song ‘Lilly Ann’, the folksy ‘Road to no Compromise’ featuring Sam’s evocative backing on whistle, and the high octane big Blues sound of the closing number ‘Roses to Rust’ which finished the set to rapturous applause.
There was no way that this pair where going to be allowed to leave the stage based on the audience reaction unless they did another song , and what a song it was, performed acapella with Sam creating a mesmerising vocal drone. ‘Bonnie Yew Tree’ is an exquisitely beautiful Folk song that Corinne was taught in the High Sierras of her Californian homeland which captivated the whole audience and the perfect way to end an evening that will live long in the memory for those that witnessed it. Let’s hope it is not another six years before Corinne returns to the UK as this is an artist on the very top of their game.
Corinne West – Starlight Highway Tour – http://www.corinnewest.com
Review by Steve Gray