Beth Hart – Solo In Concert
Monday 14th December 2015
Union Chapel, Islington, London, United Kingdom
Now this was a very special show as it was Beth Hart’s first-ever live solo show and it was billed as an ‘early Christmas treat’ for Beth’s fans in the UK. When tickets for this show went on-sale in May I remember the buzz about the show as it was announced as soon as her full-band May UK tour finished. Tickets were like gold dust and the show sold out in about a week; but fast forward and there we were queuing outside of the stunning Union Chapel on a mild December night in the heart of Islington.
On entry to the venue, I noticed a piano surrounded by lit candles and a Christmas tree covered in lights which was perfect décor for an evening like this. The merchandise table advertised a rare grey ‘Beth Hart Live at Union Chapel’ t-shirt for men and women and it was clearly popular as audience members arrived early to purchase one. The merchandise was also reasonably priced and being able to buy bundles of t-shirts and the deluxe edition of her latest album ‘Better Than Home’ was a plus.
The packed Union Chapel had taken their seats and as the house lights went down Beth Hart walked onto rapturous applause. Opening with ‘St Teresa’ from her current album, you could really hear the pain behind her voice and in these intimate surroundings she just allowed her emotion to just pour out of every word she sang. ‘Might As Well Smile’ saw her play fluid electric keyboard as the audience clapped together. The lyrics are incredibly honest and act as a reminder for us all that sometimes ‘You’re taking yourself too seriously. Just smile, relax and just get through the tough time.’
‘Mood That I’m In’ is a lively number with her rich vocals at the forefront as she plays acoustic guitar with such tenderness. ‘Setting Me Free’ and ‘Isolation’ saw Beth than change her guitar for an acoustic bass and as she played with dark undertones found myself asking ‘Is there nothing this woman can play!’
‘The Ugliest House On The Block’ was about when she bought a house in LA with her husband Scott Guetzkow and it was quite cheap for a place in Los Angeles. The song was funny but at the same time poignant as it marked a key moment in her life. Her acoustic guitar on ‘Say Something’ reminded me of John Barry’s work on the James Bond and Harry Palmer films as it felt quite sinister in parts.
‘Maybe it would be nice to do a tour like this or something’ she explained to us. I can appreciate that doing a solo concert when you are so used to be with a band isn’t easy but on this form she needn’t worry.
When she started playing the next number on the piano the audience reaction was electric within the first few notes as she played Tom Waits’ ‘Chocolate Jesus’ in a church! Admittedly, it is a favourite amongst Beth’s fans during her live shows but it was an enjoyable addition. ‘Swing Back Around’ felt like we had been transported to a smoky backstreet New York Jazz club and ‘Baddest Blues’ was inspired by her mum who listened to a lot of Billie Holiday.
‘Spirit of God’ was about when Beth’s family was part of a country club and one day when she was playing piano she heard some noise and on investigation she came across a lively Baptist Church group singing and they allowed her to come in and join in. They asked her if she had the Spirit of God and that experience lead to this lively song which was beautifully performed on the piano and really picked up the pace as it went on.
Closing the set with ‘Mama This One’s For You’ Beth Hart had displayed not only her powerhouse voice and skill as a multi-instrumentalist but she also showcased her strong ability as songwriter. As she left the stage, the audience cheered so much and stomped their feet that she returned for an encore.
‘This is one of my favourite songs’ she told us before getting the acoustic bass for ‘Fine & Mellow’ and it was a very elegant performance as she thanked the bass player in her band
‘Bang Bang Boom Boom’ worked really well stripped back on a grand piano and ‘Leave The Light On’ was absolutely heart breaking. The song is about Beth’s struggle with alcohol and drugs and as she cried and explained how she had been sober for a year everyone stood up and gave her a well-deserved standing ovation.
Standing up from her piano with just a microphone, Beth then did an a capella version of ‘As Long as I Have A Song’ and it was musically spellbinding as her voice traveled around the Union Chapel with such ease and vigor. Not many people can pull off a capella in a packed venue but like lead singer of San Franciscan band Train Pat Monahan and the legend Tony Bennett, Beth Hart’s voice soared like a majestic bird.
This was definitely one of the gigs of 2015 and I think there is something to be said for either a UK solo tour of churches and cathedrals like what Aled Jones does or maybe splitting her shows into two halves; half solo and half with full live band. If you haven’t seen Beth Hart live yet then get your ticket now before they all sell out.
Beth Hart’s latest album ‘Better Than Home’ is out now as a Deluxe Edition on Provogue Records/Mascot Label Group. In addition, Beth Hart has announced a seven-date UK Tour for November 2016 at the following venues:
Friday 11th November – Symphony Hall, Birmingham, United Kingdom http://www.thsh.co.uk/event/beth-hart/
Sunday 13th November – Sage One, Gateshead, United Kingdom http://www.sagegateshead.com/event/beth-hart39458/
Monday 14th November – O2 Academy Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom https://academymusicgroup.com/o2academyglasgow/events/795595/beth-hart-tickets
Thursday 17th November – Colston Hall, Bristol, United Kingdom http://www.colstonhall.org/shows/beth-hart-2/
Saturday 19th November – BIC Bournemouth Solent Hall, Bournemouth, United Kingdom http://www.bic.co.uk/whats-on/beth-hart-2016/
Monday 21st November – Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, United Kingdom https://tickets.bridgewater-hall.co.uk/single/eventDetail.aspx?p=31824
Wednesday 23rd November – Royal Festival Hall, London, United Kingdom http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whatson/beth-hart-95200
For more information visit: http://www.bethhart.com/
Visuals: Kieran White at KW Media
(Thanks to Peter Noble at Noble PR and all the staff at the UK office of Mascot Label Group for help with this review)