Joan Armatrading's Live: All the Way from America was recorded on June 25, 2003, in Saratoga, CA. This date features Armatrading on guitars; Gary Foote on reeds, woodwinds, and percussion; and Spencer Cozens on keyboards. The set is presented as it went down with no overdubs. The only real edits were made between songs, shortening the dead space between tunes. The material comes from only a few records in her catalog; there are six tracks off her brilliant Lovers Speak (which she was touring in support of) and four from her classic self-titled record (yes, "Love and Affection" and "Down to Zero" are among them), as well as selected tracks from Me Myself I, Show Some Emotion, and others. The live show is dovetailed to fit the mood of Lovers Speak. It is broken and bleeding and utterly naked, but full of hope and sweetness and determination. There are no rote performances here, only poetically beautiful and emotionally wrenching ones. Take a listen to "The Weakness in Me" from Walk Under Ladders as a case in point. Armatrading's protagonist is devastated by the sudden appearance of a recently lost lover. But Armatrading's lovers never surrender, as evidenced by her rambling, nearly ecstatic version of "Let's Talk About Us" from Lovers Speak. Her versions of "Show Some Emotion" and "Love and Affection" are less anthemic than they are on her studio or even other live recordings. But they are strident and full of conviction and reverie -- not nostalgia. Live: All the Way from America is a sexy record; it offers listeners a soul's eye view of love and it is rendered beautifully raw and direct.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek