Nochtwache is a dark, subterranean basement venue, a few streets from the Reeperbahn in Hamburg and was a perfect setting for the evening’s show – cosy is perhaps not the right word, but certainly welcoming and full of gregarious people who’d come for the love of the music.
Support for the night were a talented duo from Cologne going by the name of Roads & Shoes – multi-instrumentalists who managed to include cello, ukulele, keyboards and guitar in their set, they performed a set of affecting balladry and dynamic up-tempo songs which had immediate impact. A band with genuine mainstream crossover potential.
To the delight of a keen audience, JJ started with a twangy Calexico flavoured Motorcycle; the set veered between Jackson’s two albums – nine songs from WILDERNESS and seven from GILDED. Every song sounded like it could have come from a greatest hits album - glorious but not sickly melodies and sharp lyrics. There was a Tom Petty-esque ear for melody and dynamics, especially on Long Way Home due in huge part to the grit and jangle of Julian Ness’ superb guitar work, whereas songs like Multiple Choice seem to be cut from similar stuff to Trinity Lane era Lilly Hiatt, although Tonight could easily give a rockier Taylor Swift a run for her money. This was one of those shows where audience and band fed off each other and things just went from level to level. The tightness and cohesion of the band, both visually and sonically is also allowing JJ to become much more the front-person - an opportunity that she is grasping confidently. The show was laced with self-effacing good humour, movement and control. A German friend who saw the band a couple of nights later in Cologne said that they/she were “begeistert” – “enthusiastic” - and that nails it.
This confidence came to a head with the penultimate song, a driving cover of Elvis Presley’s Burning Love which the band had put together in the soundcheck that afternoon – yet which sounded like they’d been playing it for years. The main set ended with Troubled End before the longest, loudest continuous clapping I’ve ever heard at any gig of this size - and an encore of Secret which saw JJ leave the guitar behind in a symbol of defiant independence and even sing from the audience.
This band have the lot – everyone else out there just needs to be let in on the secret. Stars in waiting, without a doubt.
Review and photography by Nick Barber . Additional pictures can be viewed at: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmHhiVDT