Toby Lee / Highest class etiquette showmanship in Islington

The O2 Academy Islington is one of the top-notch venues on the north side of the river, so joining fellow blues-jazz rock lovers, I stepped in to see Ana Popovic support act, Toby Lee. For anyone who knows anything about the blues scene will know this bluesman needs no introduction. 

Toby Lee

O2 Academy, Islington – 10 March 2023

Words: Monty Sewell

Photography: Robert Sutton

Toby Lee. O2 Academy, Islington - 10 March 2023
Toby Lee. O2 Academy, Islington – 10 March 2023. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

Coined a child prodigy at the tender age of ten, he was named a “future superstar of the blues” by Joe Bonamassa. Nine years on, and there isn’t much that hasn’t been said before. Phenomenal musician with an above-and-beyond guitar technique, it was time to see once more if Lee performed to his usual standard of high class etiquette showmanship. 

Toby Lee. O2 Academy, Islington - 10 March 2023
Toby Lee. O2 Academy, Islington – 10 March 2023. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

Taking a smattering of composition champions from his two album discography, Lee and his band kick things off with a stellar, grooving style. Time Ain’t What It Used to Be was superbly swung out to the audience with drummer Max Williams and bass player Sam Collins joining him onstage. 

Toby Lee. O2 Academy, Islington - 10 March 2023
Toby Lee. O2 Academy, Islington – 10 March 2023. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

Having had the pleasure of meeting all three members after their set, all I can say is watch that space. The trio not only have great onstage chemistry, but they were also more than enthusiastic when discussing what’s coming next for Lee and his band, citing more musical development, experimental augmentation within the songwriting and just a general larger show. 

Toby Lee. O2 Academy, Islington - 10 March 2023
Toby Lee. O2 Academy, Islington – 10 March 2023. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

Paper Aeroplanes, Kansas City, before they finished up with a cover of The Jeff Healey Band’s See the Light. With young artists, there needs to come a time when the main focus isn’t their age but their masterful skillset alone. With Toby Lee, that time is now. 

It certainly won’t be long before he and his band will be hitting those arena stages, so catch them now whilst there is still that chance to get up close and personal to some good-time blues.

Toby Lee. O2 Academy, Islington - 10 March 2023
Toby Lee. O2 Academy, Islington – 10 March 2023. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

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