Beth Orton/Brodka –Leeds Beckett University, 03/10/16 1

Beth Orton/Brodka –Leeds Beckett University, 03/10/16

To the naked eye, there is remarkably little physical difference between the Beth Orton that stands before us tonight and the one that reposed on the cover of Trailer Park. Both possess that slightly awkward, alternative girl-next-door sense of cool. It is not until she introduces the show’s penultimate number, ‘Touch Me With Your Love’ that we are reminded that these two Beth Ortons are separated by 20 years and a lifetime of experience.

The release of her breakout album in 1996 – characterised as it was by a fusion of contemporary electronica and a more traditional folk ethos – placed Beth Orton firmly on the musical map. The ensuing Central Reservation and Daybreaker albums consolidated this position. Life then intervened; including motherhood, marriage and moments of musical self-doubt. Orton’s record company let her go and she began to slip off the radar.

Having also taken an artistic diversion in the interim by way of a more pure folk sound, Beth Orton re-emerged earlier this year with her sixth solo album, Kidsticks. Once more embracing technology, it marked a creative renaissance for her. The process of writing on keyboards instead of guitar liberated Orton and the end results do embody a sense of unconscious freedom.

Beth Orton

Orton is in Leeds tonight as part of a 10 date UK tour to promote the album. Whether it’s because this is a Monday evening, the onset of autumn, a disappointingly small crowd or the absence of any real atmosphere in the students’ union, the gig does take its time to properly ignite. It finally does, though, during ‘Dawnstar’ when the familiar vulnerability in Orton’s voice is replaced by something that is altogether more powerful, imbued by a strength that you suspect is born of life and living.

For all of the reflections on their radical regeneration, it is fascinating to hear the songs from Kidsticks sitting so easily alongside the older material. ‘Stolen Car’ – complete with a coruscating guitar solo from Grey McMurray – still sounds as energised and fresh as it first did on Central Reservation all those years ago, whilst the more recent ‘Snow’ and ‘Flesh and Blood’ affirm Orton’s continuing ability to hold the perfect balance between romanticism and reality.

Earlier in the evening, the Polish singer Monika Brodka produced a stirring, spiky set of slightly off-kilter indie-pop tunes of which ‘Satellites’ and ‘Up in the Hill’ (the lead single from her recent album Clashes, her first fully English recording) were particular highlights.


Photo credit: Simon Godley

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