The atmosphere at the Borderline is always good but when you have a capacity crowd it is positively electric. From the moment that Ben Poole hit the stage as support to Ana Popovic and right to the very end of the evening, this was a night where the crowd was as much part of the performance as the bands.

Ben Poole is a man I have enjoyed live on a few occasions and, with the mighty Wayne Proctor on drums and Beau Barnard on bass, he showed just how far he has come in terns of stripped down and soulful Blues. Shorn of any fripperies he belted out a 40 minute set that had the crowd jigging (as much as the lack of room allowed) with pleasure. He is an excellent guitarist but every time I see him I am even more impressed with the way his vocal prowess has grown.

After a short break Ana Poovic’s band hit the stage – keys, drums, bass, trumpet & sax – and played her in with a strong ‘Ana’s Shuffle’. I was struck by the way she brings the horns into her sound, striding miles away from standard Blues fare and almost into a Blood Sweat & Tears / Cold Blood kind of funk/Blues/soul groove. Groove is probably the most important element of the early part of the set with Eric Ramey’s bass and Marcus Finnie (drums) giving her a funky backing that took her music to another sphere from the rest.
Her guitar and vocals were spot on and while she has never quite lost her Serbian accent, she has a Nashville twang added to her voice, making it quite special.

She is a very natural leader of the band and the first half of the set was tight and full of pizzazz, a lot of it drawn from the ‘Trilogy’ album and belted out with huge enthusiasm. The more mellow material from the latest album included the title track ‘Like It On Top’ but for the most part she stuck to the funk and soulful Blues she has such a strong reputation for. When she brought the mood down for ‘Jonnie Ray’ she still kept the intensity alongside some stunning picking and the encore medley of ‘Show you how strong you are / Going down/ Crosstown traffic’ left the crowd exhausted and still wanting more.

The feedback from the crowd was something to be seen; normally with a long set there is a great deal of back and forth to the bar and the toilets (cyclic?) but no-one wanted to miss a single moment of a stunning performance.

This was the last show on the tour this time around but Ana Popovic is a stunning performer so watch out for her next time.

Picture by Robert Sutton