Rosalind Knight reports on Joan Armatrading - Cambridge Folk Festival, 3 Aug 2008

joan armatrading
44th Cambridge Folk Festival
Ah, Joan. What a legend this woman is (I’m talking Armatrading, not ‘of Arc’). From blues, jazz and folk to pop and rock, this woman has done it all. And she’s done it well. The festival programme listed her impressive CV, featuring an MBE and several Grammy nominations.

Armatrading performed at the festival on Sunday night with an accomplished band, and she filled the main tent to bursting with enthusiastic folksters, who were clearly ready for a bit of rock and pop. By 10pm on Sunday, most people at the festival start to look a bit worse for wear, and they’ve been watching live music for several hours. It therefore seemed a bit of a shame when Armatrading came on and announced 'I’m not going to talk because I haven’t got anything to say. I’m just here to play you a few tunes.' That’s fair enough, as that’s her job, but it did put a bit of a dampener on the performance before it even began.

The first few songs did, I’m afraid, bore me a bit. Armatrading played the electric guitar well, but it was just a neat succession of slightly bland tunes. It did strike me though how unusual it is to see a 58 year-old woman in the pop industry, with her own hair and no obvious signs of botox, playing an electric guitar. Go Joan, I thought!

The classic tunes began to appear in the second half of the set and by the end, Armatrading had won everyone over, including me, plus the 14-year-olds in front who’d never heard of her. We all shared her general exasperation with the fan who screamed out messages between every number. ‘I love you! I love you more than anyone! I’VE GOT ALL YOUR ALBUMS!’

The crowd sang along enthusiastically to Love and Affection, Me Myself I, and I still haven’t stopped singing Easy Rider’s ‘animal, mineral, physical, spiritual, I’m the one you need, I’m the one you need!’ I’m going to buy her greatest hits now. I never would have done that before the folk festival.

Writer: Rosalind Knight