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Judith Owen and Band

The Met, Bury
Thursday 12 March 2015

If I attend a better show this year for £10 I will be both highly delighted and amazed. Judith Owen on vocals and keyboards, promoting her 10th Studio album EBB AND FLOW with a backing band of living legends Russell Kunkel on drums and Leland Sklar on bass and Pedro Segundo on percussion. Russell and Leland contributed to just about every major album in the 70s and their session work and performances since would require several pages to document. Judith has toured with Richard Thompson (1,000 Years of Popular Music) amongst others and is in that elite club of personalities who have appeared in the Simpsons TV show as herself.

Support was from Leicestershire based duo The Daydream Club (Paula and Adam). With Adam playing guitar and Paula occasional drums they provided a great opening. Their songs had a surprisingly full sound with very catchy rhythms from just percussion and acoustic guitar. Beautiful harmonies complemented Paula's soaring voice as they performed songs from their CDs OVERGROWN and FOUND starting with Fear Of Wolves. This is  one of their oldest songs about overcoming fears, in particular Paula's early fear of being on stage on stage. Going from rocky to very quiet.  A complete pace change to very mellow with award winning song Just. Lengthy chats between songs proved that on stage nerves are a thing of the past for Paula. It was great to hear a support band introduce each song and be so self assured on stage. Audience participation was required for Little Things which the enthusiastic Bury Met audience ably supplied, Adam taking lead vocal for this song. A master class in sustaining a note, one of the longest I've heard in this genre on Saltwater, a song about Adams proposal to Paula, it took over 10 years of being together consequently Paula had a few words on the matter!. They finished their set with the title track of their latest release FOUND, again driving drum beat with very able guitar and vocals, nothing one pace about this band. They left the stage to great applause even a few 'Hurrahs!' I think they won a few more fans during the night.

When you have a pair of living musical legends in your band you take a little time at the start to introduce them. So it was for Russell Kunkel and Leland Sklar. Pedro Segundo also got a lengthy introduction. Judith is certainly not short of things to say. Many songs and chats were quite lengthy but well paced, tongue in cheek, sarcastic at times but humourous and never boring. She played with, teased and bated the audience, even berating them at times for not getting the punch lines of her jokes and threatening to bring out the defibrillators at one point. She explained that when making this album she wanted to go back and get the real sound of the 70s. Hence the use of  these musicians along with Waddy Wachtel who was billed but didn't appear, no explanation given. The playing by all musicians throughout the night had that magical feel of simplicity that can only ever be achieved by the very, very proficient. 

Throughout the night she performed EBB AND FLOW in its entirety. Train Out of Hollywood was the first song played and is also the albums opening track. From the first immaculately played bass notes we knew we were in for a treat. A light jazzy feely that was so reminiscent of 1970s Steely Dan and Joni's adventures with Tom Scott. The sound in the Met is always wonderful but tonight it was exceptional. A brief introduction and then into I Would Give Anything which evoked memories of Carole King's song writing and delivery. A very slowed down sexy cover of Mungo Jerry's In The Summertime followed but with a huge difference, transforming it from a male anthem to being sung from a female perspective which was exactly the aim. As Judith said "I like to take the cod out of the piece". Judith then required a few whoops from the audience as she mocked Californian audiences. Whooping was a continued theme throughout the night. A song of friendship Under Your Door based on her own experiences of clinical depression was performed as a keyboard/bass duet with Leland, "You Might Just See The Light Under Your Door" expressing hope in dark circumstances. A latin beat song about love with haunting vocals followed, aptly called About Love. Another cover on the album is James Taylor's Hey Mister That's Me Up On The Jukebox, again this had Judith's own interpretation taking the point of view  of someone who was very happy with life having passed through being sick of it all. The subtlety of the keyboards, bass and drum interplay was just wonderful, it all sounded so effortless. Judith's vocal expression shining throughout the night. As well as the entire album Judith performed covers of Carole King's It Might As Well Rain Until September and another total re-interpretation of Summer Nights from GREASE. The set was finished with a bossa nova style Some Arrows Go In Deep. Feigning surprise the encores started with Song Of An Immigrant from EMOTIONS ON A POSTCARD relating this to her Welsh roots when moving to America. Two more covers followed , a very jaunty Jeans On finishing with The Beatles' Blackbird, Pedro whistling his version of a Blackbird, interesting in that keyboards replaced the usual acoustic guitar opening. Needless to say there was a very appreciative audience who will be hoping that Judith and Band make it back soon as promised.

After the show Judith and the band appeared to chat and sign. A rather nice touch about the CD is that unlike a lot these days it is well packaged with a booklet containing all lyrics. A welcome return to a standard seemingly lost in this increasingly digital age. As you can imagine there were queues of drummers wanting to chat to Russell and a similar queue of bassists surrounding Leland. Lots of photos were taken. After all its not every day you get to see and chat to musicians of this standard and background. I believe a Bob Harris Radio Show session had been recorded a day or so before this show so there is that to look forward to in the near future. 

Keith Belcher
Northern Sky