Not even the ravages of a heavy cold that had forced the cancellation of the previous night’s show in Glasgow and the gathering havoc being wreaked across the country by Storm Dennis was going to stop Beth Hart from performing here tonight. With her longtime guitarist and musical director Jon Nichols already up on stage, the singer, songwriter and musician from Los Angeles, California enters the main concert hall of this magnificent building from the back of the auditorium and proceeds to slowly make her way down to the front of the stalls whilst delivering a passionate rendition of ‘There In Your Heart’ and greeting individual audience members like they were all long-lost friends.
These feelings of immense warmth and familiarity coupled to a refreshing honesty on Beth Hart’s part weave an intimate and restorative thread through this entire performance. For 100 minutes through the power of her words and music Hart takes us on an intense emotional journey charting many of the struggles that she has faced over the years with her own mental illness and addiction issues and the deep spirituality and love that has enabled her to both confront these demons and assist in her recovery.
It is an often distressing tale, but for all of its openly confessional nature it never lapses into either abject self-pity or pure self-indulgence and it is one that Beth Hart tells with remarkable good grace, self-deprecation and humour. And whilst her music has its heart firmly immersed in the blues, Hart’s supreme versatility sees her capture many other moods and styles from the sensual (her stunning cover of American jazz singer Melody Gardot’s ‘Your Heart Is as Black as Night’) to the burlesque (‘Bang Bang Boom Boom’, inspired by Hart’s love of bloodthirsty movies) and from ragtime (ergo her reinvention of Tom Waits’ ‘Chocolate Jesus’) to jazz (‘Without Words In The Way’, during which she is joined by Tom Lynn on upright bass).
Beth Hart is over here in the UK with her band (Nichols, Lynn and the similarly impressive Bill Ransom on drums) to support her ninth solo album, War In My Mind. Released last September it is viewed by many as her best record yet and the songs she plays from it here tonight – seven in total – would strongly support that view. The album’s resonant title track confirms that all of those comparisons with Nina Simone are not entirely misplaced. And the ensuing gospel-infused ‘Bad Woman Blues’ sees Hart switch effortlessly from graceful power-balladeer to full-blooded rocker in the merest blink of an eye.
‘Sugar Shack’ – recently given the full remix treatment by American DJ, producer, singer and songwriter Goldhouse – oozes barely suppressed sexual tension before the second and final encore has Beth Hart going for an extended romp through ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’ with a scintillating version of the song that may perhaps owe more to the superb Faces’ cover on their 1974 live album Coast to Coast: Overture and Beginners than it ever does the Etta James’ original, yet in its fantastic execution Hart’s place as an artist of genuine expression and considerable style and substance is once more confirmed.
Photos: Simon Godley
More photos from this show are HERE
The tour continues at:
The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester – Monday 17 February 2020
City Hall, Sheffield – Thursday 20 February
The Pavilions, Plymouth – Saturday 22 February
O2 Guildhall, Southampton – Monday 24 February