Bury St Edmunds: Apex bound Joan Armatrading flying solo for her last major tour

Joan Armatrading, playing The Apex, Bury St Edmunds, this week. Photo by Andrew Catlin

Joan Armatrading, playing The Apex, Bury St Edmunds, this week. Photo by Andrew Catlin - Credit: Archant

With her first solo world tour in 42 years also doubling as her last major tour, my first question for Joan Armatrading is an obvious one.

Her first solo tour will also double as her last major tour

Her first solo tour will also double as her last major tour

“I will never retire. I was put on this earth to write and I absolutely love it. I’m at my happiest when I’m writing my songs so that’s never going to stop - they’ll be rolling me to my grave and I’ll be saying ‘hang on I’ve got a great idea for a song’ and I really enjoy performing live,” says the singer, coming to The Apex, Bury St Edmunds, on October 23.

What she doesn’t enjoy is travelling. Her tours, in her own words, go on and on - ranging from six to 18 months.

“I’m 63 now, by the end of the year I’ll be 64, by the time the tour finishes I’ll be 65. I don’t do a month and take two months off... My tours just start and finish. I don’t want to be on the road at 65, doing 18 months non-stop. I’d be more than 65 because what would happen is I’d end this tour when I was 65, write something, so I’d be 66.

“Then I’d probably go on tour so I’ll be 67. By the time I (finish) I’ll be 69. You don’t want to be doing that. You look at the Stones and other groups; they tour the world for however many years, they’re literally doing a couple of nights and then they’re home for six months...

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“You’re never home, you can’t see friends; you can’t see family. These days it’s a lot easier to stay in touch (but) talking to somebody on the phone or Skype is not the same as actually seeing people. I’m lucky, people I know, everybody understands the business I’m in but at the same time its still hard.”

Armatrading is quick to point it’s not because she can’t hack it any more.

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“I want to stop before that happens... Being on the road when you don’t want to be, that would be a nightmare.”

Being her last major tour, it seemed the perfect chance to do something new. It’s just her, a guitar, a piano and some amazing songs.

“I can’t tell you how nervous I am and really excited. I’m dying to see how it all works out and how the audience enjoys it. This is different,” she laughs.

“I would say 1976 was probably the last time I played piano on stage. I remember in about 1982 I briefly thought I was going to play some piano and got so nervous I didn’t do it. Even in the rehearsals I was just so nervous I knew it wasn’t going to work so that’s quite nerve wracking. Then I’ve got to think ‘how do I arrange these songs for just me’...”

Continuing the firsts, when we chatted she was planning to open with City Girl from her first album.

“I genuinely haven’t played that song since 1973, maybe 1975. I’ve tried to do some things I haven’t done for a while, nearly all my songs at some point have been played live. I don’t think there’s one song that I’ve played on every single tour apart from Love and Affection, there’s always changes, so I’ve tried to come up with some different things.

“The other thing I’ve done with Love and Affection, Willow and All The Way From America is I haven’t just taken the strings from a record and used the backing track, I’ve actually played them again, re-arranged them so it fits with what I’m doing now. There are no backing tracks of bass, percussion, all that sort of thing - whatever they hear will be just me.

“I want these concerts to be a special lively interactive one-to-one experience. I have absolutely enjoyed the last 42 years of performances but now, with my final major tour, I want to capture a unique memory for both myself and the audience.”

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