Live review

Liane Carroll and Ian Shaw at Pizza Express Jazz Club, Dean Street (re-opening gig)

Liane Carroll and Ian Shaw

(Pizza Express Dean Street. 21 June 2021 – re-opening gig. Review by Lavender Sutton)

Ian Shaw, Liane Carroll. Photo by Sep Cole

It’s been more than a year since performers and a live audience have set foot in the legendary Pizza Express Live venue in Dean Street with its classic red pillars and indigo ambiance, but it feels like no time has passed at all. For their opening night on midsummer’s eve, they booked the perfect duo to bring us back to normality. Because, together, Liane Carroll and Ian Shaw bring equal amounts of joy, laughter, tenderness and surprise.

Carroll was on stage before she could even be introduced – radiating excitement that transferred to everyone in the room. After a short introduction welcoming everyone back, she settled into a selection of familiar standards and tunes from her repertoire including a more-burning-than-usual rendition of It’s Almost Like Being In ‘Hove’ that clocked around the 300bpm mark. 

When Shaw takes over on piano, the two playfully dual out scat solos, their range and phrasing respectively taking an ordinary tune like Like Someone In Love and making it different from any time they’ve done it before. Shaw carries on with a few solo numbers including a lesser known Jimmy Webb song, Everybody Gets To Go to the Moon, and Both Sides Now to commemorate the 50 year anniversary of Joni Mitchell’s album Blue.    

The collaboration and turn taking continues for the rest of the night. Shaw and Carroll are such trustworthy leaders that they have the audience in their palms – they could sing Happy Birthday in every key for the next hour and everyone would go home elated. 

Some material that they’ve dearly missed like Carroll’s dedication to her father, Mary Gauthier’s song Mercy Now has never been such a tear-jerker. Her vocal tone and phrasing takes the country-folk ballad to a new level and when the two come together for the final tune, You’ve Got a Friend, the harmonies lock together so beautifully it’s like a big sigh of everything we’ve been carrying for the past year, released.

It has been a great opening night – the release of one of London’s most loved venues back into the open market – Pizza Express has sold out shows booked for the next few weeks (link below) , but never fear, there will be plenty more to come. 

LINK: Programme details and bookings for all four Pizza Express Live Venues

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