Ana Popović – Brudenhall Social Club, Leeds – May 9th 2019

May 13, 2019

In between songs Popović said that she hadn’t played the UK for a decade and that maybe it’d been too long? The crowd roared back that it certainly was. This sublime guitarist had by this stage whipped up a storm with her five piece band.

With obligatory drums, bass and keys she’s supplemented the line up with sax and trumpet; the sound was full, loud and kicking. Currently completing a nine date UK tour she’s hopping between Europe and the USA for what appears most of 2019. Born in Serbia but the West Coast is now her home.

Growing up in Belgrade and discovering the blues was down to her father’s record collection. Coupled to her phenomenal talent you had quite a combination. When Yugoslavia disintegrated she found herself in Holland studying at the Utrecht Conservatory. However bored with the structure of the learning she changed courses and concentrated on learning jazz and was encouraged to tour. The upshot was that she never finished her studies.

Now much lauded and a recipient of many Blues awards she has complete mastery of her Stratocaster. When not touring with her own band she can be found as part of the ‘Experience Hendrix Tour’ playing with luminaries such as Billy Cox, Joe Satriani, Taj Mahal, Dweezil Zappa  and Jonny Lang.

On this leg of a European tour she’s playing a selection of tracks from her albums as well as covers. There were only two numbers off her recent release Like It On Top. This smooth blues funk album was recorded last year with Keb’ Mo. For me it’s too polished and drifts worryingly toward something you’d hear (or not hear, if you know what I mean) on very late night radio.

We started with indistinct acoustics but things cleared up and we were treated to her own compositions including “Unconditional”, “Show You How Strong You Are” and “If Tomorrow Was Today”. Throughout the band got their chances to shine and the rhythm section of drums (Cedric Goodman) and bass (Buthel Burns) were exceptional whilst Michele Papadia on organ played a full supporting role when Popović stepped away from her solos.

Throughout Popović played so effortlessly that it seemed as if the guitar was an extension of her limbs (even if the limb occasionally had a bottle neck slide attached to it). This wasn’t predictable 12 bar blues with meandering solos. Hers was a tight yet fluid style that could effortlessly switch from an arresting riff into something quite jazzy and structured. Over and above her own compositions the covers flowed including “Night By Night” by Steely Dan, Tom Waits’ “New Coat Of Paint” and Albert King’s “Can’t You See What You’re Doing To Me”. However, her tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan was simply jaw dropping.

Immediately finding Stevie’s delicate and jazzy tone she picked her way effortlessly through an instrumental: light, note perfect and catching the essence of SRV’s playing. As we came down from this high she exploded into a medley of Don Nix’s “Goin’ Down” and Hendrix’s “Crosstown Traffic”. After she’d squeezed everything she could from the song (allowing some band solos) she left the stage to cheering and clapping as the band played on. After this she was back for an encore of “Lasting Kind Of Love”.

She tours continually and is easy to catch. She lit up Yorkshire and let’s hope we’ll see her back soon.

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