JANET GARDNER with support from   SISTER SHOTGUN - Bannermans, Edinburgh 23.05.18

CHRIS STONES
(PHOTO CREDITS: MB PHOTOS SCOTLAND)

 

Could this be the first gig of 2018 where I have seen punters arriving at Bannermans without jackets, scarves or gloves? I think so! With the sun beating down on the ancient heart of Scotland’s capital, the tourists have landed. In the bar next to the venue, heads turn for a fleeting moment to catch sight of bewildered visitors adorned with cameras and maps, entering this venerable establishment only to turn tail at the sight of denim, leather and the ubiquitous band shirts.

 

One such visitor is neither bewildered nor shocked at the clientele as Janet Gardner arrives from the States to begin her UK tour. Delayed by flight complications, she turns heads as she walks through the bar and through the closed black door into the venue to sound check. Gardner continues to carry the glamour and presence that adorned so many teenage metal fans’ bedroom walls through the ‘80s and I would reckon she knows it.

 

We managed to find a break in pre-gig proceedings to chat with Gardner and her husband/guitarist Justin James in the venue’s flat above, where the squashy couches made a formidable job of swallowing this interviewer causing his feet to shoot upwards and release a fit of the giggles that was welcomed by the weary travellers. When normality resumed, Janet and Justin talked about being in Edinburgh, “We’ve never played any place like this and probably never will again. It’s really special. The moment we walked into the venue - just the character and the history looking at it, it’s so cool”.

 

Janet released her first solo album in 2017 and the material has the feel of her Vixen pedigree but with some real differences which they explained, “It combines a lot of different influences from the time we were both really young up and through current stuff. I still hear great bands like the one that’s opening for us that all sink in over time. We tried not to restrict ourselves. It’s definitely different from Vixen but there are definitely ‘80s elements in there.”

 

The song writing process for a husband and wife could have brought unique challenges but the experience was clearly a positive one as they described, “That was a little bit nerve wracking at first. It could go one of two ways. It could drive a wedge between us because there could be tension through people being overly sensitive about liking each other’s ideas. Or it could go the other way and bring us closer together and that’s what happened. We started to feel more and more comfortable with each other as we went along. It never felt like work”.

 

Gardner is a veteran and has played thousands of gigs and knows how to put on a show. She is quick to commend her support act on the tour - Sister Shotgun, and anyone who has heard their debut EP ‘Devour’ will know they will easily compliment the main act and get the night off to a blazing start.

 

Sister Shotgun have grown embryonically through their relatively short life and have seen band members be replaced for various reasons. The current line-up of Chloe Ozwell (Vocals), Benji Tatlock (Guitar), Niall Wills (Guitar), Tim Chambers (Bass) and Dave Harvey (Drums) is instantly engaging and there is a definite bond between the group, with dark humour being the order of the day. Tatlock having arrived very recently enjoys the humour of his new band mates who jibe him as he quietly contemplates his third (or is it the fourth? - he’s not sure) show with the band.

 

Back in that same room, on the same people-eating couches, we asked them about the band’s early years and Wills explained, “Originally I had a massive party when my Dad was away, when I was a teenage boy. Chloe was there. This guy comes in and he wants to form a covers band and do some ‘80s stuff. He saw some guitars in my room. He said do you want to join my band and make some money. We couldn’t find a singer and we were all giving it a go and it was naff. Chloe wanted to join and we ditched the covers. We all decided we wanted to do originals, low tuning with massive choruses and big riffs. I suppose it progressed as it went along”.

 

The band arrived at the back of the venue by its single door shared with the arriving audience and Ozwell is completely focused. Her bandmates are a relaxed, mischievous group but the front woman is in ‘the zone’ and waits patiently on the backing track starting. Having recently signed with Pavement Entertainment, there is a tangible optimism in the band given the prospect of new material and perhaps touring new shores in the future.

 

The opening track ‘No Hope' is a chunky, energetic affair and is wonderfully spectacular with the whole band clearly giving their all in the performance. With the exception of this reviewer, there seems to be hair everywhere!

 

The band have certainly refreshed the material from their sole EP and the power and feel to the songs is clear. The passion in the performance manages to hook the crowd within the first few bars - something that every support act has to achieve lest they see people leave for the bar.

 

Newby Tatlock appears comfortable given his fresh arrival and provides a heavy but melodic angle that works well with the rhythm section and delivers those riffs that the band aim for. Ozwell has a vast range and tackles songs like ‘Miss Fortune’ and ‘Overcome’ with an anthemic vocal style that captures her own influences that she had spoken about earlier, “We are such a mix of influences. I grew up with Emo 2006, 2007 bands like My Chemical Romance (cue taunting from her fellow band members!). It was the theatricality the way they put the look together with the sound and it became this massive stage show. I remember going to see them for the first time and it was like a stage production and I was absolutely blown away and I was like - that’s the way I wanna do it”.

 

Whilst Bannermans doesn’t offer the opportunity for stage productions like the ones the band hope to achieve in the future, they continue to work the crowd and get some call and return working and a well earned cheer after each song.

 

Closing track ‘Silhouettes’ is a beautifully built song with a slower pace that must surely achieve radio play for the band. The track offers space for Ozwell to weave her vocal tapestry and the percussive rhythm and guitar parts lend a powerful edge without drowning the lyrics.

 

As the band say their thank yous, they weave through the crowd to say hi to fans old and new. The band have talent, they believe in themselves and have a sense of humour off stage that will no doubt see them survive the road ahead. Importantly, for the main act - they have warmed the room up and kept the crowd engaged for Ms Gardner.

 

Sister Shotgun’s debut EP Devour is available at -

iTunes: https://goo.gl/jnjTCW

Amazon: https://goo.gl/K1MGyd

Bandcamp: https://goo.gl/1DJx2C

Spotify: https://goo.gl/wNjLUD

 

You can pick up their merchandise at - https://goo.gl/bX3Zvf  and you can check them out at -

https://www.facebook.com/SisterShotgun/
https://sistershotgun.bandcamp.com/

 

Their setlist was:

No Hope

Miss Fortune

For the Love of Hate

Fragments

From the Ashes

Overcome

Silhouettes

 

PHOTOS ARE NOT TO BE USED WITHOUT THE PRIOR CONSENT OF DOWN THE FRONT MEDIA. PLEASE DIRECT ALL MEDIA ENQUIRIES TO LINDSAY@DOWNTHEFRONTMEDIA.COM

The crowd don’t have long to wait until the main act appears like a vision through the crowd and takes to the stage. Janet doesn’t have a regular group of musicians that she tours with other than her right hand man Justin James. On this tour the band is Janet Gardner (vocals), Justin James (Guitar), Anthony Gemignani (Bass) and the man with a smile as wide as the Royal Mile - Richie Rivera (Drums).

 

The intro tape cracks into life and instantly recognisable Star Wars orchestrated music pours from the PA - a reference to Planet Janet, the artists YouTube platform. Smiles abound onstage as well as off as the venue offers nowhere to wait in the wings for the usual dramatic effect. Instead the band laugh and wait patiently, Janet joking with those at the front about the awkwardness of the situation.

 

Wasting no time in starting proceedings, opening track ‘If You Want Me’ is a riff-driven track that is certainly heavier than Vixen material. That meaty approach is driven by James who clearly has a significant influence on the music and structure of the songs. Gardner is the icing on the cake however, oozing style by the bucket load as she works the small stage like a true professional, seemingly exchanging eye contact with all present.

 

The album forms the majority of the set with some surprising exceptions but songs like ‘Hippycrite’ and ‘Rat Hole’ are obvious standouts with their big choruses and radio-friendly appeal. Radio friendly they may be but there is an edge to the material that is provided by Gardner’s own honest view of life and society. Taking time between songs, she explains the songs or at least the drive behind lyrics. Whilst she doesn’t preach to the congregation, she shares her passion with a modest understanding that she may not be able to solve the problems we face, but at least she can sing about it and call out those responsible.

 

The first surprise of the night is a cover of Cee Lo Green’s ‘Fuck You’. Delivered loosely and with an ironic tinge of fun, the song works and Gardner has the crowd singing along with the chorus. The crowd don’t hold back with their delivery and I did ponder that this was probably another moment where a lost tourist entering the adjacent bar would likely take to TripAdvisor with some choice observations on their return to their accommodation for the night (I walked in to the bar and a crowd of people sang ‘Fuck You’ at me. I won’t be back….One star!).

 

Gardner was quick to return to her own life experiences with ‘Candle’ - a song written about the loss of her father. Her description of caring for the man in his final days is touching and the song itself tells the tale better than any reviewer could. Her honesty and vivid description of such difficulties is engaging and only adds in her accessibility as an artist.

 

Working through the album material, it is clear that there would be no Vixen material being played - instead focusing on the new songs that Gardner is rightly proud of. Continuing the performance element of the show sees her in the crowd singing to slightly embarrassed forty somethings who probably only experienced such a personal encounter in print form - 30 years ago.

 

The second surprise of the evening is another cover. Rivera’s beaming smile from behind the kit is complimented by bassist Gemignani’s effortless delivery on vocals of Kiss’ staple ‘Love Gun’. Given the material in the set is largely new to most present, this is a refreshing number that allows the fans to relax and take a break from analysing the songs. Gardner takes a step back during the song and adds some backing vocals to lift the higher vocal parts. Given this is the first show on the tour, it’s clear at this point the band are beginning to relax.

 

The finale to the evening is ‘The Good or the Bye’ - a riffy, ballsy song with a solid bass and drum structure that has the crowd dancing along. There is a swing to the song too that gives it a ten out of ten on the catchy-meter and it’s clear why this was chosen to deliver the final blow of the evening.

 

The crowd are appreciative of the show they have been part of and the added bonus of the band hanging back to sign autographs and pose for photos with longtime fans is greatly appreciated. What is clear from the new album and the live performance of the songs is that Janet Gardner has grown as an artist and deserves respect for being true to herself in her songwriting and talent.

 

There is another element that is clear too. Gardner has the wow factor. There aren’t many artists who have been working since the ‘80s and still turn heads when they enter a room - a likely factor in the amount of middle aged gentlemen queuing to say hello after the gig!

 

I’d strongly recommend you listen to the album and you can hear it at the usual outlets. You can check Janet out at:

https://www.facebook.com/JanetGardnerofficial/
http://vixenofficial.com/

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCeMGZdp2jDWX8iRJa9tsOOw

 

Janet Gardner Setlist:

If You Want Me

Your Problem Now

Hippycrite

The Grind

Fuck You (Cee-Lo Green cover)

Candle

Lost

Love Gun (Kiss cover)

Let it Be Over

Kickstart My Heart (not performed)

Rat Hole

The Good or the Bye

 

PHOTOS ARE NOT TO BE USED WITHOUT THE PRIOR CONSENT OF DOWN THE FRONT MEDIA. PLEASE DIRECT ALL MEDIA ENQUIRIES TO LINDSAY@DOWNTHEFRONTMEDIA.COM

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