Last nights gig for Saint Jude rounds off a successful year for the band, who after years of working and rocking hard, have finally started to see the pay off they so richly deserve. I last wrote a feature on Saint Jude at the beginning of the year when I waxed lyrical about the impact they had on me when I first laid eyes and ears on them all the way back in 2008 at The Red Lion in Twickenham. Their unique brand of Joplin/Faces/Black Crowes Rock ‘n Soul was so beautifully authentic, I have followed them closely ever since, always trying to attend as many shows as I can. A lot has changed in the intervening years. The venue I first saw them in is now a Tesco Express, and the band have undergone various lineup changes in the 3 years since, with only drummer Lee Cook and the astonishing lead singer Lynne Jackaman being the only constants in what seemed at one point, to be a constantly revolving door of band members. The loss of influential guitarist Adam Green late last year could have spelt trouble for the band, but by recruiting the magnificent Ivor Simms and Marcus Bonfanti to the ranks on a full time basis, their twin guitar assaults have given the band extra depth and a more rounded, lived in feel, and they are all the better for it. Their progress this year is testament to that.
Sadly due to various circumstances this was my first show since I wrote about them all the way back in February after seeing them tear the roof off The Half Moon in Putney. Since then their stock has risen significantly. High profile festival appearances as well as getting a huge amount of support from Classic Rock magazine, who gave away a free copy of their album ‘Diary Of A Soul Fiend’ with last months edition, has seen interest in the band build steadily over the last 12 months culminating in their first full UK tour over the last week, and has been rightly seen as a celebration of the success of the last 12 months.
Lynne Jackaman’s fiery determination to make this band a success has been clear for all who have followed the band to see. Her slightly shy demeanour off stage hides a front woman who resolutely knows why she was put on this earth, and that was to sing rock n soul music that not only captures the magic of the greats such as Janis Joplin and Aretha Franklin, but gives it new life and shows that this genre of music can still shine without being a rehash of days gone by. Over the years she has constantly engaged with fans online, always happy to chat, and always genuinely grateful and humble for the support shown. In my experience, it takes people little more than 30 seconds to realise that her voice is something incredibly special and has been integral to the success the band now enjoy.
The Scala is packed to the rafters, swelled by a large number of “Saint Jude Virgins” that reveal themselves when Jackaman enquires how many people are watching them for the first time, and it is probably safe to say they will be back for more. Stonking opener ‘Little Queen’ is still a brilliant piece of Faces-influenced Rock ‘n Roll and sets up the exquisite ‘Garden Of Eden’ where bands tightness is showcased with the brilliant funk-rock outro. Old favourite ‘Pleased To Meet You’ follows with its heavy riff sounding even more sleazier and dirtier than ever before. Visually they are compelling. Ivor Simms and Marcus Bonfanti look like they have been transported direct from 1973. Bonfanti in particular is a gripping spectacle with his long black hair and shape-throwing as well as some fantastic blues harp work on ‘Sweet Melody’. But it is the beautiful Jackaman who is the real star of the show. She feels and sings every line with such powerful conviction and at times is completely lost in the music. She delves deep within her soul to provide some of the spine-tingling vocal moments that have cemented her reputation as one of the countries finest female singers. Her voice is able to reduce the audience to an awe-struck hush as well as involuntarily whooping with sheer delight at what they are hearing. She captivates this crowd with her endearing charm and at their softer moments such as ‘Angel’ and ‘Down And Out’ the audience are in the palm of her hand.
After an 11 month gap between Saint Jude gigs, it was interesting to hear how the songs have developed. ‘Angel’ in particular sounds more expansive now that the twin lead guitar players have bedded in and utilised the added layer of sound that the original version is missing, and it sounded incredible.
The new tracks they showcase tonight leave us in no doubt that the second album will be just as impressive as their first. ‘Black Rum And White Lies’ and ‘Save Me’ sound like Southern Harmony-era Black Crowes, and both will hit the sweet spots for anyone with a passion for real rock n roll music.
By the time the bands anthem ‘Soul On Fire’ arrives the audience are already worked up into a rock n roll frenzy and the mass sing-a-long that ensues made me feel quite proud at how far this band had come in the 4 years since first hearing the song in a pub, with no more than 100 people watching, to now having 1000 people singing it back at them. It was one of those heart-stirring moments. With the now fail safe encore of the gospel-blues rocker ‘Southern Belle’ and Rod Stewart’s ‘I’m Losin’ You’ the bands evening finishes on a massive high with an enthusiastic London crowd baying for more. With a new album on the horizon in 2012 the future is looking very bright for these London starlets. If you want to see a band playing 60′s and 70s influenced party Rock n Roll with healthy doses of soul and blues then there is no better band in the country right now.
Link to my previous article on Saint Jude with full album review here: http://fyferant.wordpress.com/2011/03/09/why-i-love-saint-jude/