Guitarists are not unlike magicians – a lot of practice and work goes into making it look easy. But Dan Patlansky is clearly not one for cheap magic tricks. He pours so much passion and intensity into his performances that how he plays is as powerful as what he plays. Not just his face, but his posture changes whenever he teases, cajoles, or downright strangle’s the at-times incomprehensible notes out of his trusty 1962 Fender Stratocaster.
That guitar – and Patlansky’s entire body – gets a full workout during his visceral, sold-out London show that begins quietly with a single sustained organ note. But it’s not long before the South African and the rest of his new touring band have joined in on an instrumental jam that steadily grows in pace and power, the perfect build up to new single Sonnova Faith. Led by his impassioned vocal addressing leaders who abuse their position of authority, it shows his ever-growing confidence as a singer and songwriter.
A funked up Stop The Messin, another standout from his latest album Introvertigo, shows the depth of that growth, while longtime live staple Bring The World To Its Knees sounds even more mighty now than when it joined his setlists six years ago.
A more surprising, but no less inspired, inclusion tonight is Jimmy Reed’s Bright Lights Big City, reconstructed with flashy keyboards and an elaborate Patlansky solo, on his battered and beloved Strat he calls “Old Red”, that transforms from melodic to mercurial in the space of a few minutes.
So too Bet On Me blossoms from a beautiful voice-and-guitar intro to full-blown self-belief anthem, while the brooding Heartbeat takes on new life with a grimy groove, cue wild keys breakdown and a Strat meltdown that evolves from short, sharp tones into what music hacks might describe as “incendiary soloing”.
Still Wanna Be Your Man marks a complete change of pace, as Patlansky and the three musicians, Felix Dehmel on drums, Jonathan Murphy playing bass & Tom Gatza on keyboards & vocals, accompanying him ease into a slow blues groove that climaxes in a six string excursion that plays masterfully with extremes in volume and pacing, until Daddy’s Old Gun rights the rock balance, with a spacey psychedelic solo thrown in for (very) good measure.
An unfussy run through Backbite, the song that kicked off his ascendency in the UK, has the Islington Academy 2 crowd swinging as best they can in the packed venue, before the latest evolution of his improvisational My Chana well and truly unleashes the four crack musicians up on the stage.
Sure, the keyboard, bass, and drum solos all prove once and for all that these new recruits can play, but it’s the precision and feel with which they interact that’s almost as impressive as the guitar-shaking, string-pulling, finger-poking performance Patlansky pulls off to close out the main set.
Rounding out a blistering show, Loosen Up The Grip sees an even more ambitious return to the loud-quiet dynamic, as evidenced by a near-silent solo accompanied by nothing more than the sound of a hand patting a leg, while Fetch Your Spade turns up the volume and power once more for a final blast of prime blues-rock served, as ever, with a generous side of heart and soul.
Live Review by Nils van der Linden
Photography by Edyta K
Dan Patlansky @ Islington Academy 2 on 2nd May 2017