By Anita Stewart, Managing Editor, and Chyrisse Tabone, Editor/Photographer
Live Show Review at Skipper’s Smokehouse in Tampa, Florida
July 16, 2022
Joanna Connor and the Wrecking Crew
Just getting back stateside after the blues festival run throughout Scandinavia, we at Rock at Night were so excited to hear that Joanna Connor and her band, one of our favorite artists, would be doing a show in Tampa. So we made plans right away to attend and cover her show at Skipper’s Smokehouse. Chyrisse Tabone did an extensive podcast interview with Joanna last year right around the time of her last studio album release–“4801 South Indiana Avenue” (produced by Joe Bonamassa and Josh Smith) in February of 2021. Check out that podcast right HERE.
She is the definitely a powerhouse and the total Queen of Guitar Badassery! No one plays like her; an incredible blend of old traditional blues and her own styling to make each song totally hers and unique whether she is performing a cover song or her own compositions. So far she has released twelve studio albums and she has played and shared stages with some of the greats such as: Buddy Guy, Luther Allison, BB King, Screaming Jay Hawkins, Robben Ford, Danny Gatton, Robert Cray, Jimmy Page, ZZ Top, Joe Cocker and Etta James just to name a few.
It was a night of torrential tropical rains that started around 5PM non-stop and flooded some of Tampa’s low-lying streets. Skipper’s parking lot was almost full when I arrived at 730PM. The restaurant and the outside venue were busy but not full and it was still raining by showtime. The tree canopy made it more like a sprinkle than a deluge.
The 4-piece band took the stage a little after 8PM. There was no opening band–didn’t need one! Joanne and her band’s repertoire included classic rock, blues rock, and even some funk and jazzy tunes! The first half of their set was interspersed with cover songs from past legends and her own originals and Joanna made it seem like playing these was easy. The drummer, Jason Edwards did a guest vocal on a few songs including an extended Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine.” A few of my special favorites were: “Can’t Find My Way Home,” by Blind Faith (early Eric Clapton), “If You Want Me To Stay,” by Sly and the Family Stone, “Little Wing” by Jimi Hendrix and “The Sky is Crying” by Elmore James. My favorite original was the rock song “Destination.” People danced (a few groped), some rocked out in the overhang areas of the venue while trying to stay dry and some crowded the stage to see her fingers move on the neck of her guitar. The other two members of the band include Dave Stephens on keys, “a 21-year-old phenom, absolutely amazing,” and bassist Shaun Calloway.
As the rain continued, about midway through the set, as Joanna was getting to the outro part of a song and playing with fervor, the stage lights blew! The entire stage was dark and after about a cringy 30 to 45 seconds of dead air, Joanna continued the ending of the song on her guitar with just the drummer accompanying her. No keyboards, no bass. A perfect time for a lengthy intermission. Soon the lights were back on, whatever electrical snafus that existed before had been repaired and the band began to play their last set.
A few things I noticed right away when I went close to the stage to get some photos and video: she smiles at everyone–she is not camera shy! And she makes eye contact and doesn’t seem to be afraid of it at all or nervous with stage fright–not her! She has been playing to live audiences for almost 40 years and whatever fears she had about performing live dissipated long ago. This is a woman who learned from the best of the best and her teachers were the old school performers who we speak of as legends now. You can’t get much better than that! And she had to navigate through a male dominated industry as a powerfully talented woman, more talented than most of the men that are her peers and that is something to be respectful of.
As of this writing, Joanna and her band are touring through Florida and have dates throughout the US scheduled all the way up to late fall. Check out the tour info HERE. And don’t miss her!