Jo Bywater

The Nerve Centre at FACT
Saturday 9th April 2011

Review and photograph by Sebastian Gahan

Following a favorable review from our own publication a few weeks ago for her album, I found myself one of many people who came to FACT last Saturday to see Jo Bywater perform her music. The same crowds of new and familiar faces who've been breaking attendance records packed the gallery for Jo’s performance and it was not without cause.

If you’ve listened to her album you’ll be aware of her honest, gritty, tell-it-all sound that evokes the spirit of any number of blues guitarists such as Kelly Joe Phelps or P.J. Harvey's now occasional musical roar and singer songwriters such as the innovative touches reminiscent of early Ani DiFranco and of course herself. That same no-nonsense approach found on the album is present with the live set too and the music was the perfect accompaniment to the venue’s intimate lighting, bringing out the innate poetry of her words.

Indeed, from nowhere people seemed to appear and soon there was an appreciative audience surrounding the corner where the eponymous banner of People Not Profit hung. It all happened suddenly as she launched into a set full of excellent guitar playing; amusing asides on diverse topics as the queue's at Central Station and the merits of a set list; the rough hewn singing that really brought the meaning of the song’s lyrics out into the open, shivering and shining from exposure to the truthful light. Noting her use of a set list for the first time in a while; whilst maintaining the magic spontaneity of all good live music, she played a selection of songs from her recently released album and the audience – an ever growing one by virtue of the gallery’s open and friendly doors – were there all the way.

Songs such as her recent single Wave, with its sparse arrangement and inspirational suggestions of ‘catching a wave’ caught a peak and maintained it leaving many people a happy experience of both the artist herself and our little space! If you can’t catch her live soon, have a listen to her album. You won’t regret it!

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