Authentic American blues is a bit of a rarity in London these days, so it was good to see Shemekia Copeland and her band at the Brooklyn Bowl at the O2 last night. Growing up in New York in the eighties, Shemekia was considered weird by her school friends because she loved blues and soul, rather than rap. But, as the daughter of the great bluesman Johnny Copeland, her preference was hardly surprising, especially as she found herself on stage with her dad from an early age.
Today, at the age of 36, she has eight albums behind her, a string of Grammy and Blues Music Awards, including one for her 2015 Outskirts of Love album, and has been compared to Ko Ko Taylor in her vocal style. She has a big, powerful voice, good stage presence and had some well chosen material ranging from slow blues to gospel and rock. Her band is proficient, if a little on the heavy side at times, and this was an enjoyable show before what can only be described as a thin crowd.
Shemekia kicked off her show with three numbers from her new album, the title track Outskirts of Love, a strong blues song, the slower Crossbone Beach and The Battle Is Over (But The War Goes On) - all of them delivered with confidence and power. Next came Married To The Blues, from Turn The Heat Up album, and a dig at the hypocrisy of some so-called Christians with Somebody Else's Jesus, a track from her last but one album 33 1/3. Other tracks from that album included Ain't Gonna Be Your Tattoo and the up beat Lemon Pie. Pies featured in another of her songs, Pie In The Sky, and there was humour in another one, a country styled song called Driving Out Of Nashville (with a body in the trunk). Blues with a twang, she called it. There was slow blues with The Other Woman, sung with real soul, and gospel with Stand Up and Testify, before she finished with Ghetto Child, dedicated to her father, in which she showed off her powerful lungs by singing off mic and filling the hall with sound. As an encore she at last got the audience to its feet with the rock flavoured It's 2am - Do You Know Where Your Baby Is.
Shemekia showed that she is a blues force to be reckoned with and it was a shame that there were so few people there to see her. She is clearly one of the best of the new generation of blues singers and I look forward to seeing her again. Here she is singing Pie In The Sky during last night's show. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBQrFRPPJ_Y