I have arrived a bit late to the phenomenon of Beth Hart. For me, that’s a shame because after tonight, I’m hooked and I feel like I’ve missed out. Tonight’s performance felt like a proper journey through life experiences, heartaches, families, love won, love lost and even a broken down old house in LA. And all driven along by Beth’s unbelievable voice, which lifts you up, and in the next moment, twists your heart and puts it through a mangle. It’s emotional stuff.
But before that, we had the delight of Dubliner Miles Graham who gave us a lesson in how to be a supremely talented singer songwriter without resorting to gimmicks. Miles took the stage on acoustic guitar, accompanied by Tony Travers on electric guitar and Matt White on a wooden box for percussion; unusual but it fits perfectly. He opened with Kissing My Love and moved swiftly into Light And Shade. Having got going, Miles really won the audience with his gentle humour and storytelling through the set, including his rise to fame thanks to Richard Madeley, Radio 2 and live performances on Weekend Wogan, but he remains refreshingly humble throughout. I Can’t Love You Again is his new single which Miles gleefully plugged, but by this time the audience was won. He even found time to poke fun at his parents for both being late and messing with his head in You Made it Good. Thoroughly entertaining and in his own words “it must be the Guinness”!
Preceded by candles and smoke on stage, with delicate blue lighting it looks slightly reminiscent of a Gothic dinner party. But the second Beth comes on stage you’re hooked and hanging on her every word. Barefoot and in a long black flowing dress she starts with Mama This One’s For You alone on the piano before bringing the whole band on for I’ll Take Care of You with a mind blowing solo from lead guitarist Jon Nichols.
It’s at this point Beth starts the journey through her life with an eclectic but wonderful range of songs, each one with heart and meaning, and many with amazing stories attached. Moving away from the piano, Might As Well Smile previews the newer material but it fits seamlessly into the set and is followed by the drum laded Waterfalls and the heart wrenching song dedicated to her Dad, Tell Her You Belong to Me.
Back at the piano, the gospel feel of Spirit of God gets the crowd lifted to a higher plane, before Beth deals her killer blow of Take it Easy on Me. After the uplift of the previous song the crowd are stunned into silence by the depth of feeling and intensity and it’s a truly emotional song; definitely my heart through the mangle moment!
Sticking with matters of the heart she moves to songs dedicated to her husband before changing up a gear again for the quirky Tom Waits written Chocolate Jesus and another great cover of Nutbush City Limits. One of the best stories of the night is revealed in Ugliest House On The Block before more thought provoking lyrics with one of her new songs St Teresa She ends the set with a great cover of the Etta James classic I’d Rather Go Blind. By this time I’m convinced about the Beth Hart phenomenon and that she is a brilliant live artist; you really feel like you’ve lived a life with her through the evening. I almost feel related!
Photography & Review by Andy Sampson. Beth Hart at the Barbican on 8th May 2015.
The full set here: http://www.photoshelter.com/mem/images/#/l/G000073Ywps7pgOo/